Transvaal Museum of Natural History
Did you know?
The museum was originally so small it began in a single, tiny room.
The Transvaal Museum of Natural History, founded in 1892 as the State Museum of the Transvaal Republic, is today part of the Northern Flagship Institution, which includes the National Cultural History Museum in Pretoria and the South African National Museum of Military History in Johannesburg.
From the outset, this South African Natural History Museum's collections policy has focused on cultural and natural history.
Its first order of business was to send out a request to state officials for ‘items made by indigenous inhabitants so as to build up a collection of their artefacts; items of interest in the field of natural history, including animals, plants, fossils, minerals and ores; and items of European origin and history, in particular those of the Boers and Voortrekkers'.
This museum achieved international prominence when the eccentric Dr Robert Broom was appointed palaeontologist. Even though he was 68 at the time, he set about vindicating Professor Raymond Dart's theories on the origins of humankind.
On 18 April 1947 he found an almost perfect adult ape-man skull at the Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg. Nicknamed Mrs Ples, this fossil, which provided irrefutable evidence of the existence of ape-men, is now housed in this museum in Pretoria.
In the first of the museum’s main sections is Genesis I: Hall of Life, which depicts a timeline history of life on earth. It includes primitive animals, bony fish and ends with displays of amphibians and reptiles. Genesis II: Mammal Hall focuses on the evolution of mammals and humans.
In the Austin Roberts Bird Hall are specimens of all southern Africa's 870-bird species, arranged in accordance with Roberts' famous tome, Birds of Southern Africa. The GeoScience Hall boasts a comprehensive collection of precious and semi-precious stones.
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Who to contact
The Transvaal Museum of Natural History
Tel: +27 12 322 7632.