gavin book

Dr Gavin Whitelaw, Chief Curator in the Human Sciences Department, is a co-editor of a book on cognitive archaeology published by Routledge in early 2020. The book comprises 13 contributions that cover African and American material principally. The contributors include well-known archaeologists from Europe, North America and Africa. The book is a useful compilation for any scholar interested in how to go about studying symbolic thinking in the past through the use of ethnographic sources. The book is available in both printed and electronic formats. The full reference is:

Whitley, D.S., Loubser, J.H.N. and Whitelaw, G. 2020. Cognitive Archaeology: mind, ethnography, and the past in South Africa and beyond. London: Routledge.

The digital version can be accessed here: 

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The KZN Museum hosted a roundtable discussion on issues surrounding human remains housed in South African Museums and how best to deal with repatriation of remains collected unethically. Part of the legacy of colonialism, human skeletons were often given to, or acquired by, museums in South Africa often under dubious circumstances. The Khoesan peoples were significantly affected by such unethical acquisitions. The skeletons within museum collections in South Africa today raise many challenges for how to deal with these remains and how to identify and repatriate them to relevant communities. Museums have often been slow to respond to such issues and to deal with restitution.

A new initiative, being led by Dr Wendy Black of Iziko Museums (Cape Town), seeks to map a new consensus amongst museum curatorial personnel on how best to deal with issues surrounding human remains within museum collections. To this end Dr Black hosted a one-day roundtable discussion on 25 October 2019, with personnel from Iziko Museums of South Africa, KZN Museum, Wits University, McGregor Museum, Albany Museum, Bloemfontein Museum, Ditsong Museum, the University of Stellenbosch, and the Department of Sports, Art and Culture (DSAC). The discussions were fruitful and the contributors were able to share their concerns and potential solutions to these issues. The participants were also able to comment broadly and provide important input on the Draft National Policy on the Repatriation and Restitution of Human Remains and Heritage Objects, currently in the process of refinement by DSAC.

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With over 40,000 items in the Human Sciences’ collections, it is not always possible to practice preventative conservation on each item regularly. Once a year, the staff of the Human Sciences Department (DHS) at the KZN Museum select a specific collection, or type of item, on which to undertake a conservation intervention. In 2019, the firearms collection was chosen for this activity. To assist with this activity, Dr Bernhard Zipfel, Curator of Fossils and Rock Collections at the University of the Witwatersrand, joined the DHS team. Dr Zipfel is one of a few curators in the country who also has a knowledge of firearms.

The firearms collection at the KZN Museum is small but significant and includes some rare pieces, such as a Colt Navy Issue (1847-1850) revolver and a Winchester Model 1866 ‘Yellow Boy’ rifle. Dr Zipfel was joined by Dr Ghilraen Laue, Curator of Special Collections, and Mudzunga Munzhedzi, Collections Manager for this intervention. Mr Munzhedzi, Dr Laue as well as Dr Zipfel have several firearm competency certificates, including black powder certification, which allows them to work on flint-lock and match-lock weapons. Preventative maintenance included barrel and mechanism cleaning, rust removal, as well as stock and barrel oiling. The entire collection was cleaned between November 19 and 22, 2019.

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It is the job of every museum to grow its collections. In 2019, the KZN Museum purchased an important collection of items collected among the BaTonga people of the Zambezi River Valley. The BaTonga, who number about 300,000 were forcibly resettled from their homes in the valley by the oppressive Rhodesian administration to enable the construction of the Kariba Dam in the 1950s. The Tonga language is widely spoken in Zimbabwe today as it is an important lingua franca. The items were collected in the Siabuwa area, south of Kariba in north-western Zimbabwe in the 1970s by Thomas Huffman, as ‘scientific mementos’ arising from his ethnoarchaeological study of the relationship between architectural structures, pots and population numbers. Items included in the purchased collections include drums, thumb pianos, clothing, headrests, hunting weapons, and stools. The collection was accessioned and then fumigated before being catalogued, photographed and stored in the collection rooms.

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?? COLLECT YOUR FREE PLANT ?? from the KZN Museum during 29 July - 3 August during National Science Week! 'Portulacaria afra' otherwise known as Spekboom is a proudly South African plant that improves the quality of air we breathe & helps fight climate change - it’s edible, water-wise, easy to grow & suitable for all seasons! (only while stocks last) ?

#nsw2019 #nationalscienceweek2019 #kznmuseum #spekboom #climatechange #saasta #dstgovza #science #bethechange #makingadifference

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Opening Times

Monday to Friday - 8:15 to 16:30 
Saturdays - 9:00 to 16:00 
Sundays - 10:00 to 15:00


Adults (over 17 years) : R10.00

Children (4-17 years) : R 2.50 

School Learners on tour : R 1.50 per child

Pensioners & toddlers : FREE