Museum of Natural History, Pretoria
On one of the major streets in the centre of Tshwane, the capital city of South Africa, lies what is regarded as the country’s leading natural history museum, open every day of the week.
Founded in 1892, the Museum of Natural History was originally buried away in a tiny room next to the clock tower on the top floor of Parliament House, a collection so small, it hardly justified the hiring of any permanent employees.
But with the increasing number of donations of items made, fossils of plants and animals, and items of European origin - particularly those introduced by Boers and Voortrekkers - the collection rapidly expanded. Today the collection at the Museum of Natural History is housed in a magnificent sandstone building, its entrance dominated by dinosaur skeletons, filled with cavernous display halls.
Exhibits include hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and associated fauna, including Mrs Ples one of the country’s top celebs and the nickname attributed to a fossil skull believed to represent a distant relative of all humankind; fossils of amphibians, fish, reptiles and plants from the Karoo.
There’s a Discovery Centre for children (by appointment) who can enjoy a ‘hands on’ experience of natural history, and the museum caters further for the younger generation by including a reconstruction of a Deinonychus dinosaur - apparently used in the filming of Jurassic Park by Stephen Spielberg.
And a chemical analysis of 17th century clay pipes from Stratford-upon-Avon suggests that Shakespeare and his cronies were smoking cannabis and other compounds, particularly in the light of a new assessment of Sonnet 76 - it may be worth reviewing your Shakespeare before a visit to the Museum of Natural History.
Times: Open daily from 08h00 to 16h00 (except Christmas Day and Good Friday).
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