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National Cultural History Museum, Pretoria

national cultural museum pretoriaThe National Cultural History Museum lies on Visagie Street, in the Old Mint, vacated for newer premises in Midrand. It is without doubt one of the most dynamic museums in Pretoria. The Museum is regarded as a centre for living culture and it focuses on the diversity of the country’s cultures and history of its people.

The National Cultural History Museum explores South Africa’s cultural diversity in various permanent and temporary exhibitions. Exhibitions include rock paintings and engravings of the San people; thousand year old Iron Age figurines from Schroda in the Limpopo Province (described as "the best known artifacts indicating ritual behaviour in the Early Iron Age"); the Art Gallery presents an overview of South African culture through time, using cultural objects, crafts, sculpture and paintings. It also houses an exhibition on Marabastad which is a true example of a cosmopolitan and fully integrated rainbow nation before apartheid.

The collection at The National Cultural History Museum includes objects, manuscripts, documents, records, photographs and publications on cultural history in all areas in South Africa. Some of the highlights include a Stone Age exhibit, an Iron Age exhibit and historic archaeology sites. There are collections of San rock engravings, Cape Dutch furniture, and of silver and archaeological material. The museum also has an art gallery that displays a rich array of paintings and sculptures from the various cultures of South Africa.

The museum has a rather creative approach to its displays, and its main intention is to promote living culture through song, dance, drama and visual arts festivals, and to celebrate all South Africans’ heritage through permanent and temporary exhibitions. The National Cultural History Museum has no fewer that five million objects stored in its facilities and the museum has huge collected works of archaeological material. Past exhibitions have included the archaeology and anthropology of the Sotho-Tswana and Venda peoples, Mapungubwe, and the Rain Queen of Modjadji.

History of the National Cultural History Museum
The Transvaal Museum and the National Cultural History Museum shared most of their early history. In 1892 the Staatsmuseum ("State Museum") was founded. It was housed in the market hall near Strijdom Square (formerly Market Square). The collection grew rapidly and soon had to move to a larger location.

In 1904, after the Anglo-Boer War, the museum moved to premises on Boom Street. The name of the museum changed to the Pretoria Museum, and later changed to Transvaal Museum. Construction on the current Transvaal Museum building on Paul Kruger Street was started in 1910, and in 1912 the first part of the collection was moved there. In 1925, the natural history exhibitions were also relocated.

The historical, anthropological and archaeological collections remained at the Boom Street museum. In 1963, a separate budget was granted to the maintenance of this collection and in 1964 it became completely separated from the natural history section of the Transvaal Museum, when it was founded as the National Cultural History and Open Air Museum (now only called the National Cultural History Museum).

The building in Boom Street was steadily deteriorating and a new premises was sought for the safety of the collection. In 1993 the Old Mint building (which was also the former site of a prison) was allocated for this purpose. The building was adapted to accommodate the museum collection and was opened in 1997.

In 1999 the National Cultural History Museum and the Transvaal Museum were once again amalgamated, with the addition of the South African National Museum for Military History, to form the Northern Flagship Institute. Although all three museums operate independently, they are managed by one museum board.


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