Slide 4.2 - copy

In November 2019, researchers in the KZNM Department of Human Sciences organized a visit to uMgungundlovu, the site of Dingane’s capital between 1828 and 1838. The archaeological archive linked to this site resides in the KZNM but is also dispersed across other institutions and Chief Curator of Archaeology in the Department of Human Sciences at KZNM Gavin Whitelaw is in the process of convening and making sense of these materials. 

The visit arose out of a collaboration between the Five Hundred Year Archive, ongoing curatorial extensions of the Digital Bleek & Lloyd (University of Cape Town) and metsemegologolo (Wits), a consortium of projects working together under the African Digital Humanities programme (Wits), to develop innovative digital archives of diverse materials pertinent to the history of the region prior to colonial times. The group comprised also Justine Wintjes (KZNM), Stefania Merlo, Anton Coetzee and John Wright (Wits), Carolyn Hamilton, Hussein Suleman, Thokozani Mhlambi and Michelle House (UCT), Frans Roodt (University of Limpopo) and Steve Kotze (KwaMuhle Museum). 

PICTURED: John Wright and Thokozani Mhlambi walking up towards the isigodloat uMgungundlovuPhoto by Justine Wintjes (2019). 

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Mudzunga Munzhedzi, Dimakatso Tlhoaele and Thembeka Nxele from the Museum's Human and Natural Science departments attended a workshop that was held at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town last week. The workshop was aimed specifically at English-speaking African countries, targeting young museum professionals . About 30 participants from different countries attended the workshop including two facilitators, Nomusa Makhubu who is a Senior Lecturer of Art History at the University of Cape Town, and Nicole van Dijk who is a Curator at Museum Rotterdam. Participants came from across Africa, notably South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Botswana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Ghana, and Uganda.

The workshop mainly focused on engaging communities as well as sectional and multiple groups in knowledge-making. In simple terms, the key focus was to explore socially-responsive strategies of museum practice. This is due to the fact that museums are currently undergoing rapid changes that affect how we understand the museum’s social responsibility, how we refine our approach to professional roles and how we engage with perceptions about the place of the museum in contemporary societies. It was valuable for the museum staff because it is the Curators, Collections Managers, Educators, Conservators, Management’s role (a) to relate to strategize in response to the changing role of the museum and the changing objectives of the museums and displays, (b) to use innovative methodologies towards curatorial practice, (c) to create programs to attract and sustain new and diverse audiences, (d) to facilitate strategic planning in developing long-term goals in light of the discourse of decolonization and transformation, (e) to develop the capacity to engage creatively with difficult histories, and (f) to apply critical thinking in relation to the complex socio-political challenges faced by public and private museums.

The lectures covered included Museum as Institution – the African context; The Changing Role of the Museum in the 21st Century; Active Collecting for Social Change - contemporary interpretation of heritage (case study Museum Rotterdam); Community-led or Community-centered: stakeholders, plural communities, citizenship and public engagement (case study Red Location Museum, Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum); as well as Multiple Narratives, Challenging Histories – Heritage and Reconciliation. 


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Entomology has a long history in South Africa, and while old specimens give insight into many historical patterns, they are not particularly useful for DNA analysis. From 7 to 24 October 2019, a field trip was conducted to several sites to look for fresh material of rare or poorly sampled Diptera species. The aim of the trip was to re-visit several localities from previous expeditions, such as the Lund University expedition in the 1950s and Brian Stuckenberg’s expedition in the 1960s. Fresh specimens collected from the historical type localities could then be used for DNA analysis.

High altitude sites in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces were the focus of the trip. The collection team, comprising PINDIP partners Kurt Jordaens (Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium) and John Midgley (KwaZulu-Natal Museum, South Africa), as well as Terence Bellingan (Albany Museum, South Africa) and Burgert Muller (National Museum, South Africa), visited several sites in the southern Drakensberg. While some areas in the Drakensberg have been well collected, more inaccessible sites have received less attention. The areas around Lundean’s Nek, Naude’s Nek, Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve, Cobham Nature Reserve and Lotheni Nature Reserve were visited. These out of the way sites yielded many of the same species as the better surveyed sites, but also some rarer species that were unexpected.

Unfortunately, the expedition was a bit early in the season which, along with the late arrival of the summer rains, resulted in fewer overall specimens than expected. However, the collections of rarer species made the trip worthwhile. Plans are already underway for a repeat expedition in early 2021 to collect additional topotypes for DNA analysis.

The expedition was funded by JRS Biodiversity Foundation and Belgian Development Cooperation.

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The KZN Museum Natural Science Department recently hosted Dr Christian Kammerer, Curator of Palaeontology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, USA. The paleontology collection of the KZN Museum is important for its focus on the fossil record of KwaZulu-Natal, which is one of the most understudied fossil-bearing provinces in South Africa. When Matabaro Ziganira, who takes care of this collection at the KZN Museum, asked Dr Kammerer how he found out about the collection, he indicated that another Palaeontologist who visited the collection in 2018, told him about the particular therapsid holotype specimens; so he was encouraged to come to see them for himself. One of the earliest really good bodies of evidence for macroevolution came from the therapsid record of the Karoo Basin. Because South African rocks preserve nearly 30 million years of continuous deposition (from the middle Permian through middle Triassic, with additional late Triassic rocks in the Stormberg Group), they preserve in exquisite detail the changes in the therapsid faunas during that time. All these invaluable contributions from specialist researchers usually add tremendous value to our collections and certainly an attraction for KZN Museum as a global research destination.

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Opening Times

Monday to Friday - 9:00 to 15:30 
Saturdays - Closed 
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Adults (over 17 years) : R10.00

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