Regular Posts

25 October 2020

Creative clichés: UP Museums and the Javett-UP Art Centre applaud International Artists Day

The 25th of October is International Artists Day and the University of Pretoria (UP) Museums and the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (UP) are celebrating artists and the impact they have on society. Artworks do not only cover walls as mere decorative paintings, but tell a story, convey a message or comment on society, politics and current affairs. For centuries, artworks have documented a certain period or have been used as a form of archiving for historical events such as battles or to record natural history, for example, through botanical encyclopedias.  

The UP Museum Curator of Art Exhibitions and Galleries, Lelani Nicolaisen relates her experience as an artist, “I wanted to become an artist since the age of 8 years old, never being without a pencil and paper at my side. Art has been a means to express myself, transcending one into a state where I become lost in my creative thoughts and the process of making. The notion that art is so powerful that it can convey a message without words always intrigues me and made me want to pursue a career as an artist”. Nicolaisen further curates the museum sculpture gallery in the Old Merensky, she launched the sculpture art route on UP Hatfield campus in 2019 and the institutions art collection has acquired four of her works into their permanent art collection.

As artworks transcend their role, so do artists. A common belief held by society is that artists are confined within their practice as makers. Increasingly, however, in South Africa as well as internationally, artists are fast becoming master multi-taskers. Their role in society is constantly evolving and expanding. In most cases, artists are never solely art makers - their expertise and creativity extend to other influential aspects that include research, teaching (from community workshops to academic lectures and seminars), writing, design, activism and curating.

These multiple dimensions of artists extend to serve by bettering the human experience as a form of therapy and growing and developing communities through creative play. Art is a form of communication and the artist provides a voice allowing for people from various cultures and generations to engage with each other through images, sounds and stories. South African artists often create works layered with metaphorical meaning. They explore themes of major events that occurred in the country, such as South African icon, Diane Victor. In her work, Victor often critiques violence, injustice and the legacies of colonialism and corruption.

The exploration of political themes and major events feeds into the trope of the tortured artist which is a favourite cliché and became a romanticized concept for creating good art. Whilst many artists lean towards this path, it does not necessarily imply suffering within their lives. Instead, it is rather a passion for topical issues that can be voiced, acknowledged and addressed. The artists role becomes amplified and a ripple effect is created that impacts discourse and understanding.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic which marks the year 2020, the South African and global art world are witnessing and experiencing a move in engagement with visual arts that leans towards a transdisciplinary nature. Due to lockdown, artists had to think out of the box to stay afloat and to reach a wider audience from home.

Artists started to explore meaningful ways beyond the norms and conventions of only one discipline where they combined their skills with other disciplines such as science, music and technology through digital and social media platforms. Virtual exhibitions have become a new norm. Even though transdisciplinary movements have been a notion before COVID-19, the pandemic developed this idea on a more public platform and became a much more inviting initiative. This in turn calls for an exciting further expansion of an artist’s role in society. Art will survive any pandemic or crisis as artists always find a way to stay creative and to keep people engaged.

For the Javett-UP Curatorial Assistant and Artist herself, Shenaz Mahomed, art was always a part of who she is today, “I initially chose art as a career to create visually appealing works and to work with my hands doing what I enjoy most - being creative! But the art sector and path taken has proven to be so much more fulfilling. It’s allowed me to have an authentic voice and add value to society in ways that I never considered possible”. Mahomed’s new art installation of laser-cut stainless steel, plywood and Perspex is titled Be Civil and is on view at the University of Pretoria’s state-of-the-art Engineering 4.0 building.

The UP Museums and the Javett Art Centre at UP greatly acknowledge and celebrate artists globally on this day. We are also celebrating Pablo Picasso’s birthday on this day, an artist that left a mark in almost every trend of modern art, especially the Cubism movement. Let us commemorate International Artists Day to recognize and appreciate the many contributions made by artists in various fields and know that they are indeed a jack or jane of all trades and masters of every one of them.

Authors: Lelani Nicolaisen & Shenaz Mahomed


14 October 2020

UP Museums flashback to Black October 1918

The landmark of the Old Arts Building on the Hatfield Campus is home to the University of Pretoria (UP) Museums and is an integral part of the university community landscape. Enjoyed by students, staff and all visitors, this historical building houses both old and contemporary collections. The Old Arts Building also houses the UP Archives, the Mapungubwe Archives and the new UP Museums Archive.

This imposing sandstone architectural wonder with its iconic wooden clock tower, black slate roof and courtyard has seen, experienced and witnessed many graduation ceremonies and celebrated many comings and goings over more than a hundred years since the establishment of the university. Even during the fees-must-fall campaign, this archaic structure on the UP landscape has stood the test of time. It has shared protests, power struggles, student marches, and has even weathered many natural disasters such as a severe earth tremor as witnessed a few years ago, when ceramics rattled on exhibition shelves. The Old Arts Building and its feature clock tower is an infamous point of attracting the immense Gauteng highveld storms and lightning strikes.

This 2020 flashback is an ode to October of 1918, locally known as “Black October”. October was when the widespread epidemic of the Spanish Flu outbreak reached its zenith, as a result of poor sanitary conditions and of serious infections across the campus. The Spanish flu hit the University of Pretoria (at the time known as the Transvaal University College) in September of 1918, affecting both staff and students. By 23 October 1918, the UP Council declared an emergency and postponed the academic year. According to archivist, Dr Bronwyn Strydom, this was a time when, "there were only 325 students enrolled and by 1919 the number had dropped to 300."

This photograph of the cohort of students and staff posed in front of the Old Arts Building in 1918 serves as a memory marker of South Africa’s worst national disasters of its past. Perhaps Covid-19 may take over this record, as the worst national disaster in South African history.

Author: S L Tiley-Nel


28 September 2020

Local is lekker: UP Museums commemorate International Tourism Day

The 27 September 2020, marked International Tourism Day or World Tourism Day and it also coincided with Ancestor Appreciation Day. The University of Pretoria (UP) Museums commemorate both these occasions to continue to mark heritage month.

Since 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has celebrated World Tourism Day as international observances on September 27. This date was chosen as on that day in 1970, the Statutes of the UNWTO were adopted. The adoption of these Statutes is considered a milestone in global tourism. Tourism Day is your opportunity to broaden your own world a little, find a location you've always wanted to make time to visit, and finally, get around to making time.

Ancestor Appreciation Day is also celebrated on September 27 of every year. So, it is indeed necessary to learn more about your ancestors and your past. Celebrate the day to preserve your family history and let your future generations know more about them.

While international tourism has halted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people remain unable to travel. These days, being able to travel seems like a luxury and this inability to travel has drastically impacted local economies as well as had a serious negative effect on our local tourism industry. But not all is doom and gloom and South Africans can enjoy spring, heritage celebrations and what is on local offer.

Restrictions have lifted somewhat and it is essential to take a closer look at the attractions available right on your community doorstep. These include local museums, gardens, libraries and other heritage sites or places of interest that are slowly opening their doors in the coming months.

For example, the renowned Javett-UP has re-opened its doors for visitors on National Heritage Day on the 24 September 2020. The UP Museums remain curators of the Mapungubwe Collection, so pop along to the Javett to see some of South Africa’s gold treasures in the beautiful National Treasures exhibition and enjoy contemporary art. Javett has also launched the first drive-through sculpture exhibition curated by Gerard de Kamper. See Times Live article,

The UP Museums look forward to re-opening in 2021 and aim next year to become a star-graded tourism destination, as we hope to register with the Tshwane Tourism Council and the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA). Continue to celebrate Heritage Month for the next few days, and Tourism Day is your opportunity to broaden your own world a little, find a location you've always wanted to make time to visit, and finally, get around to making time. Remember to wear blue as it is the official colour for World Tourism Day. Enjoy what is on local offer until the end of September.

Author: NB Hoffmann


22 September 2020

International World Rhino Day

The one and only gold rhino in the world @ the University of Pretoria

World Rhino Day has become a global phenomenon since its inception by WWF-SA ten years ago in 2010 and has become an international success. International Rhino Day is an opportunity to highlight rhino poaching, debunk the myths and diminish the demand for rhino horn. For more information:

This day celebrates both the African and Asian rhino species. The five species of rhino are black, white, greater one-horned, the Sumatra and Javan rhinos – today the University of Pretoria Museums add a sixth species: the Mapungubwe gold rhino. This gold rhino is the only artwork of its kind in the world, one of the oldest and most renowned from the Mapungubwe Collection dating to CE 1250- CE 1290. This rhino is perhaps one of the most iconic archaeological items in South Africa and is a declared and favourite national treasure.

In addition to promoting the efforts of saving all rhino species on earth, the University of Pretoria would like to employ this opportunity to share more about the Mapungubwe rhino and saving South African cultural heritage. According to Dr Sian Tiley-Nel, Head of the UP Museums and Curator of the Mapungubwe Collection, “Archaeological gold is a rarity and following the theft of the Thulamela gold collection a few years ago, the Mapungubwe Gold Collection has become rarer”. Every effort needs to be made to conserve, care for and safeguard South African heritage. The Mapungubwe gold rhino can be viewed as a South African symbol for raising awareness about the plight of anti-rhino poaching campaigns and the war against our rhinos.

The Mapungubwe gold rhino is in fact not solid gold, but it is a hollow gold foil figurine of a rhino. The gold rhino was recovered from Mapungubwe Hill from a burial site known as the “original gold grave” or M1 A620. It dates to the later occupation period of Mapungubwe from about CE 1250 – CE 1290.  It weighs only 37.4g and is rather diminutive in size 145.26mm x 55.06mm.

In detailing the indigenous craftsmanship of the Mapungubwe gold rhino figurine, one can appreciate the beauty, finesse and metallurgical skill of its production. Dr Tiley-Nel describes the Mapungubwe gold rhino in fine detail. The rhino is made of several pieces of thin gold foil, and was originally nailed onto a wooden carving. The shape was achieved by pressing gold foil over a wooden carved rhino figurine and then, holding it in place with tiny gold nails. The wooden core has since decayed over hundreds of years. The hollow, inner surface has a matt texture, which suggests that the gold was hammered out on a stone anvil, but is pale in comparison to the shiny exterior burnished gold surface. The body is made from a single folded sheet of gold that has been shaped by creasing and slight hammering or repoussé.

The head with a square muzzle is made of separate gold foil, as is the short horn, which is conically folded and shows a multitude of nail perforations. The shoulders with a prominent hump and stumpy short legs are clearly defined, as is the torso and sloping rump. The torso is centrally bulged to indicate a round belly and the broad feet are flared outward. The tail on the lower rump is positioned upright and hammered from a solid gold nugget. The tail is also decorated with incisions by a sharp tool to indicate a tuft on the tip. Two small, fluted ears are made from slightly thicker foil and were shaped separately. They are tacked to the head with two gold nails, while the eyes are formed by two solid capped gold nails. The gold rhino has a missing section on its side. Observed naturally it depicts neither a white or black rhino and is essential, a gold rhino made to be unique and one of its kind in the world

The Mapungubwe gold rhino was reconstructed and restored by the British Museum in 1999 and placed on public exhibition in the Mapungubwe Collection by the University of Pretoria Museums for twenty years and it forms part of the Mapungubwe National Heritage Collection. Today, it is on temporary loan from the University of Pretoria Museums to the Javett-UP Art Centre on the National Treasures Exhibition of the Mapungubwe Gold Collection amongst an extensive fine collection of 20th and contemporary collections of the art of Africa.

Author: S L Tiley-Nel



16 September 2020

Candid heritage conversations: appropriations and misappropriations of culture

On 11 September 2020, the Head of the UP Museums and Curator of the Mapungubwe Collection, Sian Tiley-Nel participated in a public engagement Zoom webinar in conversation with Christopher Till, Director of the Javett-UP Art Centre/ Director of Apartheid Museum, moderated by Siseko Khumalo, Editor of the Journal of Decolonising Discipline. The conversation centred around “African gold: appropriations and misappropriations of culture”. The cementation of the topic focused on The National Treasures Exhibition of the Mapungubwe Gold Collection (co-curated by the University of Pretoria Museums) paired alongside the AngloGold Ashanti Barbier-Mueller Gold Collection in the new Gold of Africa tower in the Javett-UP Art Centre.

The discussion provided a contextual background to the acquisition and history of both gold collections. The Mapungubwe Gold Collection was acquired in 1933 through archaeological enquiry and is today renowned as a national treasure of South Africa. The Barbier-Mueller West African gold collection was returned to Africa by a Swedish institution in about 2001, where the collection first featured in the Anglo Gold Africa Museum in Cape Town. Javett-UP has enabled both precious gold collections onto public display, which is accessible and engaging now within an art of Africa context. More prominently, Javett-UP is the only location to exhibit such unique, finite and valuable African finished artefacts or gold resources. Tiley-Nel explained that the exhibits focus on, “the materiality of gold, the high-level of indigenous craftsmanship and reflect on nearly a thousand years of artistry”. Javett-UP exudes the appreciation of African gold heritage as it resonates on the Mother continent rather than inappropriately exhibited in another western museum.

In a twenty-year career as Curator of the Mapungubwe Collection, Sian Tiley-Nel stated that “striking the balance between a curator’s duty and ensuing professional, ethical, progressive thinking requires compassion, altruism, reasoning and advocacy”. Curating one of the most contested cultural heritage collections has been a humble and challenging experience. She supports the notion that, “Dispossessing people of their cultural heritage and resources misappropriates people of their knowledge, their history and philosophy”. Without being ignorant, museums are important knowledge keepers too and generators of time. One of the primary objectives of a museum is preservation, art is portal to the past and multi-layered histories, marginalised and unknown histories are brought into the present by university museums.

While there is a dire need to deeply engage and to “open Pandora’s box”, such difficult issues are inevitable if museums and are galleries are truly to become social and polyphonic spaces. The justification for repatriation is just one way to address historical injustice and the alienation of those 90% of African heritage objects within Western museums needs to be talked about to restore the agency of Africans as producers of their history.

The candid conversations touched on some exciting and new roles of modern art galleries and museums within higher education institutions. “They have an opportunity to locate and curate dialogues and practices to the wider public, the university, to art practitioners and bring those multi-partied stakeholders to drive discussions on policy and future directions and the trajectory of culture in a South African context”.


Author: S L Tiley-Nel


11 August 2020

#5WomenArtists: Women’s Month celebrated by the UP Museums

In honour of Women's Month the University of Pretoria (UP) Museum's wish to promote women within museums and more broadly, women also within art, culture and the heritage sector. It is acknowledged that all women have taken great strides whatever their industry or profession as we celebrate #5WomenArtists. This month should also serve as a reminder of the continued efforts to promote gender equality, the fight against gender violence, racial injustice and equity among a host of other issues affecting women.

In the past decade, there has been a significant shift and increase as women enter the museum profession, using their influence as an instrument of change to put forward issues of women’s equality in the work environment. The current pandemic has shown the resilience of working women and the shared responsibility of educating children from home while balancing a working lifestyle between home and work. Like many professions, female artists as example are not acknowledged sufficiently, despite the contributions they bring and share from deep and often their personal experiences to the South African art scene. 

For this month, the UP Museums share five women artists we have been selected from the university art collection. Each has made significant contributions to South African art. The university is proud to have their artworks as permanent inclusions in the museum collection. The five female artists we have chosen to highlight are: Amita Makan; Philiswa Lila; Diane Victor; Henriette Ngako and Noria Mabasa. These artists uniquely weave their understanding as women into the depth of their work, both materially and cognitively.

Amita Makan makes use of a variety of materials such as silk, sequins, crystals, vintage saris and ribbons. These are then embroidered onto shimmering fabric such as organza or other netted fabrics. This materiality and the physical process of creating the artwork forms a significant part in the Makan's signature artworks.

Philiswa Lila also pursues her art through personal exploration using the physical, mental and spiritual spaces held close by her own experiences and uses methods of remembering such as narratives and story. Lila is particularly interested in the vernacular, memory histories and personal identities. She works in different media, such as traditional beadwork and painting. 

Our third artist is a part-time lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts, Diane Victor, is an iconic South African graphic artist specialising in printmaking and drawing. Her work is loaded with satirical and social commentary that is grounded in the country's histories. Within her work, Victor often critique against apartheid, injustice, legacies of colonialism and corruption.

Henriette Ngako is one of South Africa's finest contemporary ceramists who explores working figuratively, making her work more sculptural by medium. Ngako's work creates a narrative where she explores notions of freedom, memory and heritage. Our last chosen artist is Noria Mabasa who’s work and conceptual thinking has given this Tsonga artist who works mainly in wood and ceramic immense national and international recognition. Her art explores the feeling of social rejection and the disapproval that comes with diverging from the notions of accepted and expected behaviour of women among other key themes of apartheid and her origins.

The UP Museums invite our community to try five new online art puzzles from these select women artists to celebrate their extraordinary contributions to art and to the university art collection. Please use this Women’s Month for 2020 to openly support all women in museums, heritage, culture and art and so ultimately to elevate as well as celebrate the status of women and their future in South Africa.

Author: Sian Tiley-Nel


28 July 2020

UP Museums sets sights on dedicating a gallery to its art collection

The University of Pretoria (UP) is the custodian of an extraordinary collection of South African and European art, so much so that it is fast becoming an art destination for the City of Tshwane. As such, the University of Pretoria (UP) Museums in close partnership with the recently launched Javett Art Centre at UP (Javett-UP) – are continuously working towards ensuring that art is accessible to all.

The UP Museums is aiming to showcase the University’s exceptional art collection of more than 2 500 works by curating a space that both the UP community and the public at large can enjoy and be inspired by. The collection includes paintings, graphics and sculptures which are currently spread across the University’s campuses in departments, faculty offices and public spaces.

“The UP Museums has launched its ambitious Strategic Master Plan for 2020 to 2025, and a new home in the Old Arts Building for the institution’s art collection is just one of the many exciting developments on the horizon,” says Dr Sian Tiley-Nel, Head of the UP Museums. Part of the strategy is also expanding the field of art conservation, and the UP Museums is fortunate to have an in-house professional art conservator.

The art collection ranges from 20th-century pieces to contemporary art from the 21st century, and includes works by artists such as Walter Battiss, Bettie Cilliers-Barnard, William Kentridge, David Koloane, Leonard Matsoso, Tommy Motswai, Frans Oerder, Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef, Alexis Preller, Irma Stern, Allina Ndebele and Diane Victor.

In addition to UP’s impressive art collection, the Ceramic Galleries, the Mapungubwe Gallery in the Old Arts Building – which houses the notable Mapungubwe Collection – and the Sculpture Gallery in the Old Merensky Building link up along Tukkie Lane, which is proposed to become a new ‘art street’ that leads down to the south of Hatfield Campus towards Javett-UP.

UP received its first artwork in 1931 – a painting by Maggie Laubser titled, Arum Lilies. At the time, the University utilised the MacFadyen Memorial Hall for exhibitions. The collection expanded to about 300 artworks, and by 1957 a committee was established for new acquisitions. In 1973 the collection was inventoried for the first time, and recognised as an institutional and research asset.

“Museums have become more active participants in our society and communities,” Dr Tiley-Nel says. “This means there is much-needed financial support for university museums to fulfill their role in society.” University museums make unique contributions to the academic, social and community work of a university. They promote the public profile of universities and serve as stewards of nationally significant collections that contribute to the overall arts and cultural sector of the economy of the country.

The UP Museums has an important role in supporting and contributing to new research, and in inspiring students and enhancing learning. For example, more than 10 academic modules have objects-based learning, which is the active use of museum collections embedded into their teaching curricula.

The proposed new art gallery will highlight artworks by established as well as lesser-known local artists, and would exhibit new annual acquisitions as well as possible temporary loaned collections. This new gallery will be developed alongside another proposed gallery, which will be dedicated to the indigenous and trade glass beads from the Mapungubwe Collection, bringing UP’s art collections in a total of 12 galleries to the University community as well as the wider public.

Meeting such ambitious objectives would not be possible without funding, and The UP Museums requires the support of individual patrons and corporate benefactors to make these galleries a reality. Rather than simply building new galleries, The UP Museums is looking towards building new sustainable partnerships with the view that museum art is an investment in the long term.

We remain confident that financial support will be generated to help modernise UP’s museums so that they remain a mainstay – all great universities have great museums.

For more information, please email [email protected]

This article also appeared in Alma Matters Winter 2020 newsletter, posted 17 July 2020



16 July 2020

67-piece Mandela online art puzzles: a UP Museums challenge 

July is Mandela month. While university museum staff work remotely from home, the University of Pretoria (UP) Museums delved into the university’s art collection for works featuring our beloved Madiba. We share three sculpture works of this South African icon on our new online art puzzle platform. The challenge lies for those staying at home to try a Mandela puzzle, comprising of 67 pieces to put together.

Three artworks of the Late President Nelson Mandela were chosen from the UP Museums art collection by South African artists: Zelda Stroud’s bronze portrait titled, Nelson Mandela (2017); Mike Edwards, President Nelson Mandela 1 (1988) created in cemcrete and a standing figure by Claudette Schreuders (1973) titled, Mandela (2017) a Chine collé lithograph on paper.

To commemorate this international day, the UP Museum’s make several lockdown suggestions of some good deeds to contribute your 67 minutes on 18 July 2020. Think culture, think green, donate or help someone are just small gestures that we can all do for humanity. We suggest 15 ways you can spend your time on this day. If you are self-isolating and social distancing and find yourself alone, completing an online puzzle is known to be a helping, destressing and relaxing process. This initiative is unique, so take time to complete a Nelson Mandela puzzle to challenge yourself. Alternatively, create a more difficult 200-piece Mandela puzzle which may take up all 67 minutes to finish. 

Mandela spent 67 years making this world a better place and his birthday is celebrated worldwide on 18 July. While you try your hand and brain skills at piecing together Mandela, each minute reflects upon each year Mandela served South Africa. Mandela's immense international campaign began for human rights and demonstrated that one man had the power to change the world.


Three new art puzzles of Nelson Mandela are available at


Authors: Sian Tiley-Nel & Lelani Nicolaisen


9 July 2020

UP Museums host the first UMAC-SA meeting on the continent

UMAC is the international committee for university museums and collections of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). The University of Pretoria (UP) Museums hosted Dr Marta Lourenço from the University of Lisbon in Portugal, President of UMAC to address the online cohort comprising of museum professionals and practitioners from eight universities.

According to the Head of the UP Museums, Dr Sian Tiley-Nel, "UMAC is represented in sixty countries on nearly all the continents, except Africa" and it was my mission back in September 2019 to get the first South African cohort of curators, archivists, managers and other professionals on board and to begin a collective network across universities in South Africa."

This first meeting was held online on the 23 June 2020, supported by ICOM-SA ( and was attended by 33 representatives from the University of Pretoria, University of the Witwatersrand, North West University, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, Rhodes University and the University of South Africa.

This first forum hopes to share our galleries, libraries, archives and museums- often referred to as GLAMs, as a means of holding, curating and conserving collections, stimulating exchanges and providing a collective resource, not just for the professionals, but UMAC can be used by researchers, students and the public.

Dr Lourenço is also the Director for the National Museum of Natural History and Science of the University of Lisbon and the National Coordinator of Portuguese Research Infrastructure of Scientific Collections. She teaches Material Culture of Science in the Masters of History and Philosophy of Science and is a research member of the Interuniversity Research Centre for the History of Science and Technology at the University of Lisbon. It was indeed an honour for the UP Museums for her to be our distinguished guest at the first UP-UMAC-SA meeting and she encouraged the necessity of a local network to internationalise university museums and collections in South Africa.

Dr Lourenço expressed, “that universities were among the first institutions to systematically collect objects and specimens to document nature, the universe, and ourselves.”

UMAC is the largest international forum of higher education museums and collections in the world. It proved to be the ideal local instrument to initiate as UMAC is a global advocate for higher education museums and collections of all sizes, types and across disciplines.

It contributes to society by supporting the development and sustainability of university museums, art galleries, collections from both the humanities and the sciences, archives, libraries, herbaria, medical and teaching, by representing collections holistically that are held within a university environment. University museums and collections are also increasingly recognized essential resources devoted to culture, research and education.

UMAC encourages research about university museums and collections and is founded upon three research lines, profiling the community of professionals, the role of museums and collections and holistic heritage in the so-called ‘third mission’ of universities and the history and memory of UMAC itself.

The UP Museums are active institutional members of ICOM and UMAC for more than a decade and it came as a shock to realize that Africa was not represented and other than UP Museums, no university in South Africa was a member of UMAC. As an international committee, UMAC was created in 2001 and fully upholds the values and principles enshrined in the ICOM Code of Ethics and the Magna Charta Universitatum, see This charter was first signed in Europe in Bologna by 388 rectors and heads of universities in 1988. It has stood the test of time well and contains principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy as a guideline for good governance and self-understanding of universities in the future.

Universities in South African and indeed across the continent hold some of humanities finest cultural, archival and art collection. South African universities have fantastic collections; even though many of them are not in a museum, the collections cover the arts, sciences and humanities and many archival and library collections hold special collections unique to the world. The inclusion and growth of university museums and collections into the worldwide UMAC database are listed at

It is encouraging to know that this new network of UMAC-SA now joins their international forums of academic museums and collections in the world, and UMAC has expressed its ongoing support to the University of Pretoria Museums as a project partner and founding member of UMAC-SA. Meanwhile, the ZA network is already on the UMAC list of networks,

For further information please contact: [email protected]

Author: Sian Tiley-Nel


9 July 2020

UP Museums feature in Episode 33 of new YouTube Series Bones and Stones

As part of episode 33 of the popular YouTube archaeological series titled, Bones and Stones the University of Pretoria (UP) Museums Interpretive Officer, Nicole Hoffmann was recently interviewed by archaeologists, Dr Tim Forssman (UP Department of Anthropology and Archaeology), Matt Caruana (University of Johannesburg) and Matt Lotter (University of Johannesburg). Each week, two to three new 15-minute episodes of Bones and Stones are released online, spanning a great range of interesting archaeological topics.

This specific episode highlighted the University of Pretoria Museum collections with a special focus on the Mapungubwe collection and the role of interpretation in archaeology within a university museum context. Nicole’s interview centred on the idea that university museums are incredibly dynamic and varied spaces. She highlighted the responsibilities of a Museum Interpretive Officer and spoke about aspects of her job, challenges faced when presenting the Mapungubwe collection to disabled groups and a little bit about the amazing collections within the UP museums.

Nicole Hoffmann also a trained archaeologist, together with her colleague Dr Tim Forssman from the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, both introduced in 2019, heritage tours specific for students on the University of Pretoria Hatfield campus. The link of the UP Museums to the teaching modules within Archaeology are an important aspect for actively using museum collections as part of the university curricula.

Since the University of Pretoria has been closed due to lockdown, contact classes were temporarily suspended, and teaching was transformed into online learning. To keep archaeological discussions going during such challenging times, according to Dr Forssman the new series was to “try and overcome this, and navigate the new ‘digital normal’ we were thrust into.”

Recording episodes for Bones and Stones as a YouTube channel was “aimed to keep the conversation around archaeology and heritage going”. Initially, it was intended to appeal to undergraduates and topics were loosely structured around teaching coursework content. However, this idea shifted as more people became interested in the channel including postgraduate students, other professionals and interest groups. The YouTube series now focusses on a range of topics that include discussing recent archaeological papers, student research projects, careers within the discipline and job expectations, archaeologist profiles, archaeological collections and the occasional fun video.

In the future, the aim is to continue with the channel but expand and interview a greater variety of heritage practitioners, scholars and students, as well as develop longer more focussed videos. To follow this interesting series, link and subscribe to

Authors: Nicole Hoffmann & Sian Tiley-Nel


16 June 2020

UP Museums: Encouraging the youth to appreciate the heritage of others

Youth Day commemorates a historic event in honour of 16 June 1976, that profoundly changed the socio-political landscape in this country. Forty-four years later, 16 June 2020 extends this legacy with a firm resolve, that a small university museum can contribute to the upliftment of the South African youth and hopefully make a long-lasting impact on their perceptions of heritage.

To create more awareness around Youth Day, museums have a critical and active role to play in society. While the UP Museums may not be able to present specific exhibitions or Youth Day programs this particular year, as university museums we try to encourage young visitors to develop an understanding and respect for culture and art, as well as their heritage and the heritage of others.

Museums have a commitment to collections, curation and conservation that support their educational functions, and museums serve the community and their visitors reflects the diversity of that community. The university community of students, staff and researchers is one of the UP Museum’s primary constituencies, yet the thrust is largely towards being more connected to its community base, particularly towards making an impression on young visitors.

While museum doors remain temporarily closed due to the ongoing negative effects of the pandemic, this does not distract from the educational mission of our university museum. The UP Museums have three approaches to youth development: public offerings, school curricula directed tours and more recently, the introduction of customized tours for the disabled youth. Specialized museum school tours with interpretative content, directly linked to the national curricula is an ongoing request and revolving educational programme presented each recurrent year.

Currently, in the absence of physical tours, the UP Museums aim to increase more digital content suited to the youth for continued enjoyment and fun, such as art crossword puzzles, to drawing and connect the dots activities for younger audiences. Of course, not all museum learning is formal and more recently, the introduction of online puzzles drawn from iconic works in the university museums and archives is gaining popularity. The museums actively engage in the academic teaching programme, so literally hundreds of undergraduate and postgraduate young students are exposed to the offerings of the museums from their first year.

According to the Head of the UP Museums, Sian Tiley-Nel expresses that, “engaging young people, their strong opinions, likes, dislikes, attitudes and experiences of museums is influenced by a variety of factors, age is just one. Engaging more deeply and honestly with the youth outside the realm of academia is important. We are constantly learning that the youth are not uninterested in museums as stereotyped by unfounded assumptions, but they rather enjoy the university museums as social places even escape places. Many come to sit and just experience the museum galleries that they feel most comfortable with”.

In marking the anniversary of 16 June and the Soweto Uprising, history has taught many lessons over the decades and one of which is that, museums need to invest in young people through art and culture, and empower the youth to appreciate not only their heritage, but the heritage of others. This Youth Day, let us support the youth in their experiences and social views (as well as opinions) and allow them to be involved on many levels with their university museums, not just from an educational perspective, but for appreciation, discussion or just plain fun.

For the latest new online UP Museum puzzle to mark Youth Day, please visit:

Author: Sian Tiley-Nel


9 June 2020

UP Museums archiving knowledge: promoting International Archives Day

In the age of ‘fake news’, the need for trustworthy sources has become ever more essential. The perception of archives is usually vague, often confused with libraries, but essentially archives keep primary records and more importantly, are repositories of knowledge. Archives are sometimes perceived as difficult to access and thought to fall within the boring realm for the historian. Yet, nothing could be further than the truth. Archival heritage is a valuable testimony about the economic, political and social development of humanity.

In 2007, the United Nations were requested to create an International Archives Day and so 9 June 1948 marks the day that the International Council on Archives (ICA) was created under the auspices of UNESCO- and the rest, as they say, is history. The University of Pretoria (UP) Museums are promoting the International Archive Day campaign and are raising awareness among the UP community and the wider public about the importance of archives.

Throughout global history, archives, libraries and museums have been allies in the field of information. While they may have taken separate paths of professionalisation- they both have the common ancestor of the Mouseion (seat of the muse). One of the oldest archives and museums in the world originated from Africa, when the Musaeum at Alexandra in Egypt, which included the famous Library of Alexandria was founded as a scholarly institution by Ptolemy II, but by AD 272 was destroyed by civil war.  By the 1800s, museums and archives overlapped in physical and political space. Later, museums took control of object collections while archives took over other forms of records and mainly cared for historical manuscripts.

Museums and archives have returned to their traditional relationship, thanks to new technological tools and digital databases that make collaboration easy. Even with different types of collections under their curatorial care, both have a common goal: providing knowledge and access to people in the Information Age. Archives and museums also preserve the two-dimensional, three-dimensional collections and digital data in keeping, maintaining and generating new knowledge.

In recent years, the UP Museums have established the only Mapungubwe Archive in South Africa. In order to continue a collaborative relationship between museums and archives, they are also in the process of establishing the UP Museum Archive. These archives are the essential foundations for museum research, where historical knowledge is not only preserved for its enduring value, but new knowledge is generated and distilled into interpretative narratives within the museum galleries. The UP Museums are leaders in the field of preservation and have taken great strides to house, care for, and provide access to valuable archival and historical material from the university museum collections. Join the global movement to celebrate this important message that archives store knowledge, archives disseminate knowledge and archives search for new knowledge.

The International Council on Archives have announced 8 June to 14 June 2020 as International Archives Week and this year’s campaign is, “Empowering Knowledge Societies”, visit for more information.

Author: Michelle de la Harpe


26 May 2020

University Museums for equality and against discrimination

The 2020 IMD theme “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion” has shaped the month of May during the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.  During this last week of May, the UP Museums focus on the aspect of equality and discrimination within a university museum environment.  

Equality must be presented not only in the workforce of any institution, but with regard to the inclusion of the whole community that museums serve, as well as by reflection of the diversity of collections represented in exhibitions and art galleries. Many of our exhibitions and new acquisitions are working towards promoting gender equality and identifying and addressing particular collection histories and challenges to ensuring equal representation and progression in a contemporary university museum context.

Globally, and increasingly it is suggested that university museums as educational and diverse landscapes have the potential to be proactive or “take positive action” in establishing a diverse and equitable student force and work force. Museums should be at the forefront of the fight against discrimination in terms of “gender, race, faith, sexuality, age and disability”.  By raising awareness of situations and historical contexts where prejudice is and was rife, museums should show the wrongs and to advocate for change.

According to the International National Council of Museums (ICOM) #IMD 2020, “stresses the potential of museums to create meaningful experiences for peoples of all origins and backgrounds”, which is central to their social value.

As agents of change and trusted institutions, there is no time like the present for museums to demonstrate their relevance by engaging constructively in the political, social, and cultural realities of modern society”. The challenges of inclusion and diversity and the difficulty of navigating complex social issues in increasingly polarised environments, while not unique to museums and cultural institutions, are important ones, due the high regard in which museums are held by society. 

In essence, society and by extension, museums as social spaces as well as social mirrors of creativity, must foster an inclusive environment in which people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse needs can assist in the prevention of discrimination and actively promote equality. 

The UP Museums take our commitment to equality and diversity seriously and are actively against any form of discrimination. Our services, operations and engagement efforts demonstrate a commitment to diversity and wider accessibility for all that is threaded throughout our curatorial plans and engagement schedules and promote full inclusion in our daily working practices that is a shared responsibility of all staff. 

Museums and the university community are invited to share their creative ideas, initiatives and digital content with #DiversityAndInclusion, #StayAtHome, and #MuseumFromHome digital initiatives and experiences on other social media platforms with the hashtag #IMD2020 to make this May 2020 a truly memorable one for the Covid-Archives.


19 May 2020

The UP Museums join hands in highlighting: accessibility and disabilities

For International Museum’s month in May and in continuation with the global theme, “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”, the University of Pretoria (UP) Museums are highlighting accessibility and disabilities within the museum environment.

Many museums have not always been open to welcoming people of all backgrounds, particularly those with disabilities, in fact this is a social and marginalisation issue. Increasingly, museum’s need to actively engage with people with disabilities, and so adjust and change their services and programmes to be more encompassing, for wider access to a diversity of people in order to be truly seen as educationally inclusive.

Since last year, the Museum’s facilitated specialized tours, specifically geared towards the inclusion of people with disabilities. The UP Museums have collaborated with the first-year university student, Mr Rohan Crafford and his guide dog Dixie (SA Guide Dogs Association) on a one-on-one basis, to train and experience tailor-made tours for people with visual disabilities. According to Nicole Hoffmann, the Museum Interpretative Officer who initiated this outreach, “it’s about inclusivity and accessibility of university museums, to be welcoming to everyone, not just abled audiences, but also persons with disabilities and to allow the galleries, archives and collections to be experienced by all”.

This museum outreach programme has significantly expanded and many more disabilities have been encountered in a university museum environment. As a result, the UP Museum’s continue to expanded their educational engagement and collaborated with the Disability Unit of the University of Pretoria, as well as the student organization known as Beyond Our Limiting Disabilities or BOLD. This collaboration has been beneficial to all and are ensuring that the Museums are even more accessible than before. The bespoke tours are planned for and research is required to ensure that sensitivities and practicalities are considered for each specialised tour to accommodate people with other physical disabilities including mental disabilities.

While the University of Pretoria remains closed as a result of the effects of Covid-19, ongoing museum collaboration with the Disability Unit will continue to widen accessibility to students living with disabilities and will encourage future regular visits into the museum galleries. Both museum buildings are disabled friendly, with ramps, lifts and even-touch friendly displays and specialised tours for the disabled can be booked in advance, once the UP Museum’s re-open.

The Museums will highlight the need for more meaningful accessibility again on 3 December 2020, when the International Day of Disabled Persons will be highlighted. Globally, this day seeks to promote the rights and well-being of people with disabilities and in increasing awareness of the needs of the disabled. Over the past two months, the UP Museums have successfully improved the accessibility of museum content digitally and as part of a long-term strategy, special attention will be given to sensory and physically impaired experiences in the museum galleries to meet the goal of being inclusive university museums.

In celebration of International Museum Month, the UP Museums want to highlight the important role that university museums play and the work done by staff to ensure those living with disabilities can enjoy and appreciate the diversity of cultural and art offerings within the University of Pretoria.


12 May 2020

UP Museums show thumbs up for action on climate change

The UP Museums have heeded the call for action and joined this year’s Intellectual Property Day (26 April 2020) by becoming signatories to the call on the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to focus on innovation for a greener future.  

The UP Museums as members of ICOM-SA support Paris-based ICOM in advocating that climate change is a responsibility of museums to generate awareness, and this year they have chosen the theme, climate justice as a key topic under the umbrella of the International Museums Month for #IMD 2020.  This is also reflected in the Artwork 4 the Week, posted by the UP Museums in connection with #IMD 2020. 

Climate justice is more encompassing than only the notion of global warming. Museums, libraries, heritage sites and other cultural institutions are suffering the grave consequences of fires, floods and disasters leading to climate change. Damage to, or disappearance of, any heritage impoverishes the heritage of all nations. The need for action is urgent and in line with sustainable development goals as it involves the treatment of finite natural and cultural resources that constitute our heritage. To better understand how this theme relates to IMD 2020, it is essential to refer to the principles of climate justice, as identified by the Mary Robinson Foundation:

  • Respect and protect human rights
  • Support the right to development
  • Share benefits and burdens equitably
  • Ensure that decisions on climate change are participatory, transparent and accountable
  • Highlight gender equality and equity
  • Harness the transformative power of education for climate stewardship
  • Use effective partnerships to secure climate justice

According to Dr S Tiley-Nel, Head of the UP Museums, “the university museums want to be part of the world community to raise awareness of climate, heritage and intellectual property as we know climate change won’t wait”. Today, the survival of the world’s cultural heritage is at stake in the face of the ever-changing increasing threat of climate change. ICOM with key partners such as WIPO and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), the International Council on Archives (ICA) and Society of American Archivists (SAA) have drafted a call for action to encourage all copyright decision-makers to take action. At the national and international level, to ensure that museums, libraries and archives can preserve cultural heritage and common knowledge before it disappears due to the devastating effects of climate change.    

Read more.


06 May 2020

Digital Inclusion at the UP Museums IMD 2020

International Museum Day is annually celebrated on 18 May and this year’s theme, “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion” is very appropriate. To put a spotlight on this theme, the UP Museums will be covering weekly news topics for the month of May, with “Digital Inclusion” as the first.  This news post will be followed by “Climate Justice” as a second subject, and with “Accessibility & Disabilities” and “Equality & Discrimination” as further themes to follow. 

Worldwide museums are closed and were once central social spaces, but COVID-19 has enforced social distancing. How do museums remain inclusive and diverse during such trying times? Globally ICOM this year has moved International Museum Day onto a digital platform - #IMD2020. By making museums digitally available they are enabling digital inclusion and online engagement is becoming increasingly important. 

According to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), digital inclusion covers three aspects, “access: availability and affordability; adoption of digital literacy and application: workforce development, education and civic engagement.”

The objectives for #IMD2020 are jumping-off points for museums to develop creative ideas that will engage their communities on-site or online and highlight the importance of the role of museums and institutions that serve society and its development by:

  • Advocating for museums as key actors in society
  • Empowering diversity and inclusion in our cultural institutions
  • Promoting cultural exchange as a catalyst for peace among peoples
  • Implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals

According to Nicole Hoffmann, “the current unprecedented circumstances are providing new opportunities for many museums to get up to speed and fast-track their digital technologies. Museums have moved their engagement and access to online resources such as updating website content and to get social-media enabled.” 

The UP Museums will be going digital to celebrate International Museums Month. Hard work has been put into online content for the UP Museum website and many new digital resources such as collections, galleries and interesting news items are posted weekly and an exciting -newsletter is due to be launched. The UP Museums are institutional members of the International Council of Museums and we join our colleagues and world-wide network of over 40 000 museum professionals and more than 20 000 museums in more than 138 countries.

For more information please follow our collections and Instagram:


20 April 2020

# Hashtags keeping up with art for art’s sake

Ask museum professionals what a hashtag was a decade ago and the answer would be something rather arbitrary. Hashtags for #museum in 2020 have become so popular and are trending in Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, Tumblr and other social platforms, it is hard to keep pace. The point of using hashtags is to post, get popular and boost views, a form of engagement with an infinite number of users. Hashtags are there to inspire global communication and gives one the ability to reach millions of people, stay connected by linking together relevant images, art, stories, narratives on social media to niche communities. Hashtags are fast becoming the culture of marketing tools for museums to grow their reach and connectivity with the globalised world. Locally please follow, #UniversityMuseumsFromHome; #universityofpretoria and #MyAfricaOurArt. Some other really great hashtags to follow are #MuseumsAndChill, #AskCurator, #MusTech, #MuseumSelfie. The glossary of museum-related and art-related hashtags is endless.

According to the Art Newspaper the top 6 hashtags to follow during national lockdown and adapted from the following article,

1. #MuseumFromHome  - This is an essential feed to follow for the latest online initiatives. A similar hashtag that is trending is #VisitfromHome and there is also a French version #cultureàdomicile. There is also a very fun strand that began here where art professionals trapped and bored at home have been making one-minute long videos about a single work of art or artefact that they love. The idea was started by the freelance museum worker Sacha Coward and he is encouraging others to follow suit.

2. #MuseumMomentOfZen - As the world gets caught up in coronavirus-related anxiety, lots of art institutions are sharing beautiful and peaceful works of art from their collections or views of empty galleries while the museums are shut. This is a perfect antidote to stressful working-from-home days and lonely self-isolation.

3. #MuseSocial - More for the social media teams at museums, this feed is a great place to either vent about the chaotic and mammoth task of taking your museum's output online or to get a heads up about what people are planning for the coming weeks.

4. #WhyILoveMuseums -Yesterday was #WhyILoveMuseums Day and lots of accounts are sharing their thoughts. "We love museums because, even now, they can offer us a unique connection to history, culture, nature and stories that help us understand our world. It might often be through exhibitions & galleries, but don't forget their online content is still there for you now," tweeted London's Natural History Museum.

5. #ArchivesHashtagParty - This one is for the proper history nerds out there. Here, people are sharing letters, photographs and objects from either their museum or personal archives. For St Patrick's Day, unable to physically attend celebrations, lots of accounts posted images from parades gone by.

6. #ArtCanHelp - We at The Art Newspaper have set up this hashtag campaign to spread good news, cheerful images and helpful lists of fun activities and funding support. Tag along with us!

Author: Sian Tiley-Nel

Posted: Nicole Hoffmann


17 April 2020

UP Museum commentary on the South African Tourism Webinar – Tourism Recovery Plan

Nicole Hoffmann as the Museum Interpretive Officer and a specialist in Heritage and Cultural Tourism from the University of Pretoria Museums provides valuable insight and professional commentary on the South African Tourism Webinar – Tourism Recovery Plan held online on 14 April 2020, hosted by Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism. The impact of tourism has greatly affected the economy of South Africa since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and museums globally have been affected and a recovery plan for tourism and museums-alike will need consideration as the year progresses.

During this second part of the online webinar hosted by South African Tourism, the panel of tourism industry experts spoke about expectations and difficulties that are being experienced and lessons that were learned from other countries and from within South Africa.  The facilitator and host asked all participants to vote on when they expect the tourism (and aviation) industry to normalize again.  Most of the roughly 1700 participants of the webinar maintained that they expect tourism to return to the good 2019 levels only by the first or second quarter in 2021. 

For example, the regional manager for Emirates Airlines Southern Africa expects their first international flights to take place by 20 June, depending on when governments may reopen their borders and remove travel restrictions.  However, this depends on how the crisis develops.  Consensus was that the safety and health of staff, the community and visitors must come first.  Should a health threat persist, this date moves back to a later stage.  In the meantime, the next five to six weeks will be critical for the survival of all tourism companies, and those that bear the ripple-effect from tourism through indirect employment.  However, the biggest fear is that smaller companies do not have the funds to survive the next weeks without an income. 

The panel discussed possible new trends: Domestic tourism is expected to recover first, based on the fact that people will not want to get on an airplane due to continued worries about their health - especially on airplanes, airports and cruise ships.  They mentioned that people would be prepared to drive for 3 hours, maybe a bit more.  Therefore, local tourism would possibly recover first, followed by regional tourism and then only international tourism.  Domestic tourism also depends on new pricing: if prices don't increase dramatically and the economy is able to stabilize.  Locals won't be able to pay prizes made out for international tourists and international tourists carry the economy as they bring foreign currency into the local economy. On the other hand, the weak Rand has already started to attract visitors from overseas, as a trip to South Africa is currently very cheap for them.  Therefore, the weak Rand is actually already driving sales for trips to the country again. 

Despite the lockdown, it does not mean that people will stop dreaming and planning.  Therefore, it is a logical consequence that people overseas are contemplating where to travel to next year.  The weak Rand drives this further and the first bookings for the next year to the next 18 months are coming in at international tour operators and wholesalers. 

Also, all of the flights and trips that could not take place during the Covid-19 crisis are being rebooked for in a year's time.  It is still uncertain in which way the economy and the local regulatory measures will develop, if the crisis will be over, or if a second wave of the pandemic will come about.  South Africa still has its main flu season ahead, and summers in Europe, the US and Asia (the main markets) is relatively short - the question was posed, if the pandemic would return in the European winter. 

There is much uncertainty still and many fears, especially since many accommodation and aviation establishments are threatened by grounded planes and cancelled and refunded bookings.  The biggest fear is that small establishments may not survive, they are already under immense pressure and several funds are being established to attempt to support them.   On the other hand, the tourism industry, like the museum industry is seen as a resilient industry that has survived past economic crises and natural disasters.  The tourism industry will bounce back, but it is a matter of when and how.  There are more questions than answers at this stage, but a number of new trends are expected to emerge as a result of the pandemic. Some trends identified were as follows:

  • Mass tourism may decrease, as well as travels in large groups of people and to large gatherings.  Tourists are expected to become more health-conscious and security-conscious.  They will rather book individualised trips in smaller groups: niche tourism will grow.  Taylor-made trips and travel experiences will become increasingly sought after.  This would affect travel to natural and cultural destinations and attractions.  It may be very positive for South Africa due to a large offering of natural attractions as a source base.  People expect value for money. 
  • Sustainable tourism is expected to grow.  This could possibly mean fewer, but longer trips (travel less but longer).  And visits to natural places, but also to off-the-beaten-track places.  The pandemic has shown that it is indeed possible to decrease the carbon-footprint of the travel industry. 
  • The Covid-19 pandemic will have an effect on VISA applications.  It may possibly make the process more difficult with the addition of health questions and where visitors have travelled in the past - to identify if they have been to high-risk areas and the like. 
  • Business tourism will possibly carry on as usual, but leisure tourism will change.  Tourists will search for new experiences that will allow them to connect to people and places, to forge human connections, but also to people-free places and nature experiences such as safaris or hiking trips. 
  • Empty nesters (60 +) will probably be the last group of tourists to start travelling again, as they belong to the most threatened health group. 
  • Digital technology, virtual and online experiences are increasingly important.  They need to entice visitors in such a way that they cannot help but want to travel to have the actual physical experience in person. 
  • Shorter booking windows in a post-pandemic environment are expected, as all of the trips that were postponed will need to be accommodated. 

All of these discussions will be taken into consideration, when the South African Tourism Board develops and builds a Tourism Recovery Plan.  It is expected that the tourism demand will persist and even increase following the pandemic, but the biggest need is to re-establish tourist's confidence in travelling, as most don't want to be exposed to close contact with others at the moment.  At this stage, it is important to identify new opportunities based on the changing trends and visitor profiles.  In this regard, timing will be important and cheap rates that tourists will take advantage of. 

The recovery of the tourism sector depends on how South Africa emerges from the pandemic.  Due to new consumer needs, in a post-pandemic environment, local tourism establishments need to adapt.  At the moment the first priority for the South African Tourism sector is to survive the pandemic, by conserving cash and maintaining liquidity.  Thereafter, to adapt and plan ahead (long-term for the next 10 years in a changed environment) and to start capitalizing again.  Nevertheless, there is reason for optimism: the demand for travel has not decreased.  The tourism industry is resilient and will recover, it has survived other crises before. 

The webinar was highly thought-provoking and stimulating.  Due to the high demand, another Zoom webinar (Session 3) was set for Thursday, 16 April 2020, at 12:00 to 13:30.  It will be the last of the three-part series.  Following these discussions and expert consultation, it is expected that South African Tourism will be able to put together a comprehensive Tourism Recovery Plan for the entire tourism sector in the country.  To follow more on these webinars, please follow the links below:

Webinar 1:

Webinar 2:

Webinar 3:

Author: Nicole Hoffmann


17 April 2020

METAmorphising Archives: Preserving memory

The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic is trying times for many nations and the global community is reflecting on documentation and sources of information in archiving the present for future research. Archivists and many others are asking how one can archive these rich sources and diverse sources of information in researching the future scientific, sociological, political and cultural aspects of the pandemic. A recent blog reports on the importance of archiving documentation of the Covid-19 pandemic, and reflects on how this initiative will result in a Covid-19 Archive, in developing and preserving the memory of the pandemic.

Academic libraries are no longer perceived as the primary drivers in digital preservation since there is a general consensus that the notion of “archives” has fundamentally changed. It is also encouraging to see initiatives such as the collaboration between Archive-It and the International Preservation Consortium’s (IIPC) on collecting and preserving web content related the ongoing novel Corona virus outbreak,

UNESCO has called for greater support to the global documentary heritage amid COVID-19. They are calling all States, memory institutions, community, private, university and public archives to, “harness the educational, scientific and artistic potential of documentary heritage in efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak. As a part of this effort to mobilize documentary heritage, UNESCO has launched the Memory of the World (MoW) programme For interest, Africa has only four archives that have made it onto the Memory of the World Register: the CODESA Archives; Archives of the Dutch East India Company; Criminal Court Case No. 253/1963, State versus Mandela and others, the Liberation Struggle Living Archive Collection and the Bleek Archive Collection.

Mainstream repositories such as academic and state-run cultural heritage archives need to adapt as archives are fast moving beyond borders, digital realms and into the future. The meaning of archives is not just rapidly changing, but mutating and evolving as the spectrum of archives widens, calling for the “metamorphosis of archives” (Taufik Asmiyanto 2019). This simply means that while institutional archives and museums remain memory institutions, the continued effort of preservation of collective memory remains a worthy cause. During current times of uncertainty, we have to reflect upon how archives respond in such times of current change and insecurity is a real challenge. University museums and archives nationwide have closed doors too. Few museum archives have the technological resources to go fully digital and the challenge of the constancy of the archive profession will depend on the responses to the growing challenges of the digital world and the adaption that many archives need to seriously consider standing on the brink of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The UP Museums and associated archives are no exception and are no immune to change either. We are currently in the final phase of a major preservation project, funded by the US Ambassadors fund for Cultural Preservation in association with the US Embassy in Pretoria, to establish the Mapungubwe Archive. Before this archive can be useful in the research and museum world, the important historical materials within the archive need to be preserved. Historical documents are being placed in acid-free storage which will prevent, or at least, slow deterioration of the paper materials. Photographs and maps are also undergoing intense preservation. To an extent the metamorphosis of the Mapungubwe Archive is being considered, for example when the physical preservation work is done, the next logical phase will be to digitize.

Museum archive staff remains committed to the AFCP project and are working remotely from home during the national lockdown. Fortunately, some archivists can work from home on electronic media and to date over 120 newspaper articles related to Mapungubwe have been added to this digital archive.

Recent events have emphasized that prevention is better than a cure. This is also true with archival collections. It is important to protect documents, before its condition is beyond repair. This means, that it is better to make sure the original documents are protected, through preservation and reprography. Reprography is the act of making copies of historical documents, photographs and other archival materials, so that researchers can work with copies of the material and limit the handling of the original records. These events of the 21st century will call upon archivists to continue preservation of documentary evidence and will force us to consider how we ‘futurise’ the Mapungubwe Archive and other archives as the collective memory of the institution. The UP Museums have commenced plans in 2020 to formally establish their first archive for the institutional collections and post Covid-19  archives will certainly also be on the strategic agenda going forward.

Authors: Michelle de la Harpe & Sian Tiley-Nel

Posted: Nicole Hoffmann


09 April 2020

Cherish an Antique Day: Featuring Fabulous Historical Furniture

The UP Museums have a small, yet impressive collection of historical furniture, and one of the key items in the collection is perhaps one of the oldest items of museum furniture in South Africa. To celebrate the world-wide “Cherish an Antique Day” we feature both of these beautiful historical chests, truly considered unique and exceptional and over 350 years old.

This 16th Century Flemish Merchants Chest is possibly one of the oldest items of historical furniture in South Africa and is exceptionally rare. Dated to circa 1500 originating from Belgium, the chest is made of oak and features medieval carved panels with gothic tracery, trailing vine and floral motifs. Unfortunately, there is very little known information on this chest, its provenance or more detail on its origins. A traditional colonial merchant’s chest or boxes were used to store money, record books and receipt books, personal documents and letters. Merchant chests were made of hardwood and generally iron bound made for a wealthy merchant to transport valuables along trade routes. Carried on wagons or boats, such chests needed to be strong and durable to face the rigours of arduous journeys that the merchant would undertake and often the clasps and straps were made of iron and some had carrying handles to each end.

The 17th Century German Armada Chest dates to circa 1650. This forged iron strongbox of considerable weight was made in Nuremburg in Germany during the middle of the 17th century and was often known as Nuremburg Chests. The strongbox has a false lock in the front, two padlocks and a hidden latch on the lid that unlocks an eight lever lock and is painted black, with tulip and rose decoration. The hinged rectangular lid features an intricate but hidden lock to the reverse with eight bolts, enclosing the actual lid. The key for the lock is hidden in a sliding panel on the lid and the front facing key hole which is evident is in fact a false lock These chests have interesting and an intricate single key lock mechanism with often a large complicated lock on the underneath side of the lid.  Many of these chests no longer had the original key as they were destroyed precisely because of the locking mechanism. If the contents were valuable enough many of the mechanisms show damage, having been pried or smashed apart. This chest was acquired as part of the Van Tilburg Art Collection in a donation to the University of Pretoria in 1976. The iron-bound strong box was for storing valuables in the 16th and 17th centuries and may have been bolted to the captain’s cabin. The assets stored were often said to finance the campaigns of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the name continued to become a fanciful Victorian invention recalling chests imagined to be used by the Spanish Armada.

Author: Sian Tiley- Nel

Posted: Nicole Hoffmann


06 April 2020

Covering art conservation @ home

The Covid-19 pandemic may have brought the art world to a temporary halt, yet despite this global challenge nearly every major art institution has commenced with virtual art tours and one can escape from home onto online artworks from The Louvre in Paris to the Met in New York. The disruptions caused by the virus are harmful not only to people and their well-being, but also to the crucial conservation work that they do and the impact on museums will involve post-crises planning. Please follow the upcoming ICOM Webinar coming up on the 10 April 2020, which will address some of these issues,

Amid the worldwide crisis, the UP Museums are making plans to ensure that we continue to curate and conserve, as well as research and campaign for the invaluable work our staff are able to continue from home. Where possible, we are supporting staff to be committed and enthusiastic about their responsibilities and our part-time art conservator, Sandra Markgraaf is continuing conservation from a fully functional and professional home art conservation studio, known as Art Revive. She was asked a few questions from a novice point of view about what art conservation is and what it entails.

The history of paintings is the history of visual ideas expressed in material form. Art and paintings are composed of several components, made of various materials, in complex layers and it is simply not just an image on a support or within a frame. Knowledge of the materiality of art enables the conservator to understand the past, the limitations of art practices at a specific time and the material and techniques that are used. Sandra stressed that “professional art conservator requires an understanding how pigments were made, the preparing of media, adhesives and varnishes to enable a conservator to make decisions regarding the conservation of paintings”. Knowledge of the relationship of materials and methods of production is important in art conservation.

All paintings are subject to deterioration due to age, accident, or the incompatibility of materials used by the artist called an inherent vice. All works of art are produced with materials that ultimately deteriorate, no art lasts forever but our appreciation for art does. The environment in which a work of art is exhibited or stored has a significant impact on how long it will survive. Paintings kept in stable conditions can survive longer. The environmental agents that have an impact on the stability of paintings are light, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pollutants. There is science behind art conservation and the restoration of art within a museum context is the lifeblood of any art collection. art collection curated by the UP Museums contains more than 2000 artworks, paintings or works on paper which requires active conservation and over the next few months we will bring more of this art collection online to keep you posted and remember to follow our Instagram for more @upmuseums

Authors: Sian Tiley-Nel & Sandra Markgraaf

Published and posted: Nicole Hoffmann


01 April 2020


The University of Pretoria Museums are joining the global museum community to best amplify public engagement online through social networks and websites to be somewhat accessible during the lockdown period following the covid-19 pandemic. This global pandemic will not stop us from curating from home and doing what we do. While there is social distancing, we are aiming to bring our collections closer to the public, out of isolation from storage and temporary, exhibitions which are currently closed but available on our website. We do not have the luxuries for 3-D experiences or virtual reality museums at our disposal, but these amazing experiences can still be viewed at some of the world’s greatest museums with over 2,500 virtual tours online, follow this link to read more:

As small university museums, while our resources remain limited, yet not enough to hold webinars or Zoom events, we are creatively bringing the UP Museum collections and galleries with regular updated features, news items and highlights of our collections and exhibitions to continue to roll our public and curatorial programme. April in South Africa is a celebration of Freedom Month and the UP Museums will be showcasing select artworks from our SA Landscape series, part of a temporary exhibition at the Rectorate. Landscape painting has the potential to depict a nation’s ideals of individualism, freedom and opportunity- South Africa is picturesque and has some of the world’s most beautiful and diverse landscapes both of natural, cultural and artistic beauty. Follow our Instagram for more @upmuseums

The UP Museums are professional members of global networks such as ICOM-SA and UMAC and we wish to share our network more widely. Universities across the globe are switching to remote learning and university museums and professionals are #workingfromhome. UMAC is inviting all university museums to share (1) the challenges of remote work (2) the challenges of keeping the engagement (3) the challenges of solidarity. Please leave your comments and experiences at

Author: Sian Tiley-Nel

Published and posted: Nicole Hoffmann


March 2020

Special Collections Month in March

Both the University of Pretoria Museums and the Special Collections Unit (Department of Library Services), hold unique and special collections on behalf of the institution.  These are social and learning spaces that provide mostly historical and archival types of information for research and other purposes. The UP Museums and Special Collections accommodate, house, curate, manage and showcase special collections to make these available and accessible to the UP community and the wider public. For example, the UP Museums hold the unique Mapungubwe Archive and primary archival materials related to the university’s diverse art, ceramic and sculptural collections. Whereas, the Special Collections unit of the Library curates the Africana Collection, the de Villiers Roos Collection, and the South African Music Collection, among many others. 

During the month of March, the Special Collections unit of the UP Library and the UP Museums are collaborating to bring attention to and to raise awareness of the special collections of the University of Pretoria, and which are accessible for research purposes.   Both the library and the UP Museums have collections available for research.  Both are creative spaces with the potential to act as quiet reading spaces, as well as social spaces with opportunities to explore exhibitions and to learn new information. 

The University of Pretoria Museums are open free of charge Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:00.  For more information or to book tours, please contact the Museum Interpretive Officer Nicole Hoffmann via email or telephone:

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Telephone: (012) 420 2178/5181

The Special Collections unit is on Level 5 of the Merensky 2 Library and is open Mondays to Fridays from 07:30 to 16:00. For more information, contact the coordinator, Nikki Haw.

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: (012) 420 4707



February 2020

The UP Museums are becoming BOLD and more beautiful

The University of Pretoria Museums aim to become more diverse and inclusive, as suggested by this year’s theme for International Museum Day “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”, which will be globally celebrated on 18 May 2020. The UP Museums dedicate the whole month of May to raising awareness about the global and local importance of museums. 

In previous years, the UP Museums started making their facilities, galleries, buildings and exhibitions more widely accessible to diverse people, particularly aimed at people with special needs.  The collaborative initiative of the UP Museums towards the end of last year with a visually impaired student, Rohan Crafford has recently featured in the Tukkievaria.  It was then decided in the beginning of this year, for the UP Museums to further their engagement campaign to widen access and began to collaborate closely with the Disability Unit by offering specialised, custom-made tours to students with disabilities. The response has been incredible.

The student society known as ‘Beyond Our Limiting Disabilities’ or BOLD has already embarked on three specialised tours within the different museum spaces. The interpretative guided tours focus specifically on the diverse special needs of the students such as full blindness or partial blindness, people in wheelchairs, deaf visitors and people who have speech impairments.  Such tailor-made interpretation enhances student experiences of the creative spaces surrounding museum collections. Through more detailed verbal descriptions and the re-interpretation of the collections on display and by engaging more senses such as smell or touch are examples of methods used.  Hearing-impaired persons are catered for through explanatory information panels, touch items are available for the visually impaired such as the oversized reproduction of a Mapungubwe ceramic from the 13th century and other communication technologies (ICTs), such as audio-visual materials by means of video further enable deeper student engagement. 

The enthusiasm displayed by the students in their self- and guided exploration of the museum galleries enhances the ways in which the Museum Interpretive Officer conducts tours. Simply by paying increasing attention to the inclusion of providing a physical and sensory experience - a more mindful experience that is both beautifully enjoyed, educational and engaging.  This collaborative and eye-opening initiative was immensely rewarding for both parties: the museum guide and the students, allowing all to experience the museum galleries in new ways, looking at things differently from various angles and with deeper meaning.  Thembisile Princess Sibanda, one student who attended provided feedback of her BOLD tour, stated: “Thank you so much.  You made our tour fun.”  The experience was just as enriching for Nicole Hoffmann, who was bolstered by the enthusiasm of the BOLD students.  Strategically, the UP Museums are moving forward with many such valuable changes to engage communities, particularly the student community to ensure that the museums are not just educational but fun, creative, social and exciting places to explore as part of their campus life over and above their academic programmes.

The University of Pretoria Museums are open free of charge from Mondays to Fridays, 08:00 to 16:00.  Custom-made tours can be booked through the Museum Interpretive Officer, Nicole Hoffmann.  Please see the details below:

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Telephone: (012) 420 2178/5181


UP Museums introduce guided tours for people with disabilities for a full sensory experience

Posted on February 14, 2020 in Tukkievaria by Masego Panyane

People living with disabilities are often left on the fringes of society. Everyday experiences that you’d normally take for granted, like visiting a movie theatre or an art gallery, are often painfully out of reach.

With this in mind, the University of Pretoria (UP) Museums have now added interactive guided tours for people living with disabilities to their offering.

Piloting this programme is visually impaired second-year BA student Rohan Crafford and his guide dog, Dixi. Crafford and Dixie have been trained hands-on by Nicole Hoffmann, Museum Interpretive Officer at the UP Museums, to help improve the experiences of visitors through the museum collections. Dixi, a member of the Guide Dog Association, is the Museum’s first canine visitor and she returns for repeat visits every now and then.

Crafford said the experience is a first for him too.

“It is generally not a very rewarding experience for blind people to visit museums, because the experience one has is usually not very complete. At the UP Museums, however, great trouble was taken to make sure that my experience of the Museums would be rewarding. The UP Museums is not a cold institution that’s unfriendly to students. On the contrary, I believe that the UP Museums make history both interesting and accessible. This is the first complete and rewarding museum experience that I have had,” he said.

Crafford added that what made the experience particularly rewarding is that it fulfilled the curiosity he’s always had about historical objects found in museums.

“I was exposed to many wonderful things which, otherwise, I might not have been introduced to. To name only one example: sculpture. I had known what sculpture is and that there are sculptures on campus, but I was allowed to engage with the three-dimension artworks as Miss Hoffmann guided me on tours and introduced me to the new sculpture art route on campus. This has had a significant influence on me,” he said.

Head of the UP Museums Dr Sian Tiley-Nel said while this move to make the Museums a more inclusive space was a significant step for UP, it is also in line with the vision they have of ensuring that the Museums are enjoyed by all who are a part of the UP community and that university museums have potential as social spaces, not just educational spaces.

“For decades museums have been trying to improve access to people living with disabilities. I think universities have a particular role to play because of students with disabilities. So, this is a first on the UP campus, and a first in the sense that Dixi is now a regular feature in terms of the Old Arts Building. She is in fact our first canine visitor and we are so pleased that we can be inclusive to four paws too. We approached Rohan to assist us and Nicole Hoffman, in her capacity as the Museums’ Interpretive Officer, worked with Rohan and Dixi for a number of months. There have been other students that are in wheelchairs that have visited our museums, and as you know, the campus has increasingly improved access to all buildings.

“The unfortunate thing is that the Old Arts Building, as a historical building, is considered intimidating because of its architecture. So, it has this imposing façade. But what staff and students don’t know is that we have a ramp and there is a lift. A decade ago, we weren’t able to provide that kind of accessibility but we have fortunately become able to do so. The museum has also upgraded to a unisex bathroom. What the experience with Rohan has taught us is that people with sight don’t quite enjoy the full experience of the museum, so we encourage people to make use of all their senses within a museum gallery, from enjoying the coldness of the slate floors and the texture of the sandstone walls, to taking note in the change in smell. Rohan is keenly aware of his sense of smell, which adds to his museum experience. Everything that’s in a university museum is not just about the objects or collections on display and the information that accompanies it, it’s a full experience,” Dr Tiley-Nel said.

 *The UP Museum offers tours that are fun, informative and interactive. Bookings are essential! Contact the UP Museums on: 012 420 2178 or [email protected] for more details.



January 2020


The University of Pretoria Museums has recently loaned a significant sculpture in its collection to the Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch. The bronze portrait, titled, Sidwane Tokozile (1921) by the renowned South African artist Anton Van Wouw (1862-1945) was chosen to be exhibited in the exhibition Faces and Figures: Selected 20th Century South African Artists. Sidwane Tokozile, after whom the bust was sculpted has also posed for another work by van Wouw, titled Sidwane Tokozile (Coffee drinker). The founder of the Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch, the late, Dr Anton Rupert (1916-2006), was a major donor and contributor to the University of Pretoria’s sculpture collection. Dr Rupert also financially supported the establishment of the Mapungubwe Gallery at the University of Pretoria Museums in 1999. The University of Pretoria and Rupert Foundation have a long-standing partnership going back more than a quarter of a century.

The exhibition Faces and Figures: Selected 20th Century South African Artists explores the work of renowned South African artists such as Gerard Bhengu (1910-1990), Irma Stern (1894-1966), George Pemba (1912-2001), Maggie Laubser (1886-1973), Gerard Sekoto (1913-1993) and Moses Kottler (1896-1977). The exhibited works are created by some the most prominent South African artists of the 20th century, and which also contributed to the genre of Modern Art within South Africa. This exhibition furthermore explores the relationships between the artist and its sitter and how the artist’s define and express the human figure through art. Artworks in various mediums from the Rupert Museum’s permanent collection with the University of Pretoria Museums’ temporary loan of the sculpture Sidwane Tokozile are showcased in this exhibition.

Faces & Figures: Selected 20th Century South African Artists is on exhibition until 12 April 2020. For more information, please see



November 2019

UP Museums launch new Art Beyond Walls Sculpture Route

The UP Museums are in charge of over 57 collections of the University of Pretoria.  This includes the public sculptures visible on the different campuses of the university. 

In order to allow staff, students and other visitors to better engage with the collections, the sculptural curator Lelani Nicholaisen and the museum staff explored different options and developed a public sculptural walk, which can be self-explored or enjoyed as part of a tour offered by the museum's interpretive officer. 

The new sculpture route was introduced as part of the International Museum Day celebrations, which took place in May.  After engaging in numerous tours with museum audiences throughout the year, the route was tried and tested and the designs and maps were further refined.  Now, after the initial trial period is over, the UP Museums are officially launching the brand new "Art Beyond Walls Sculpture Route". 


September 2019

UP Museums support Javett-UP with temporary loan of the Mapungubwe Gold Collection

In September, the Curator of the Mapungubwe Collection together with an amazing project team installed the highly anticipated National Treasures exhibition in its temporary home at the new Javett-UP Art Centre. This coincided with the launch of the 2nd edition of the publication titled, National Treasures of the Mapungubwe Gold Collection. This collector's edition showcases forty-one carefully selected and iconic gold from the museum collection that is now on singular public display together with i-pad technology. The book is a full-colour catalogue of the Mapungubwe Gold Collection curated by University of Pretoria in association with the Javett Art Centre-UP. This signature South African national collection is presented in a spectacular display joined with the Anglo Gold Barbier-Mueller Collection of West African gold, exhibited in a juxtaposition of iconic gold in an imposing one-of-a-kind dedicated gold tower on the University of Pretoria’s south campus. The National Treasures 2nd edition was specifically published to coincide with the opening launch of the Javett-UP on 24 September 2019 for heritage month where over 1600 were welcomed and to continue to make the Mapungubwe Gold Collection more widely accessible. The book’s preface is contributed by Prof. Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria and the foreword by Christopher Till, the Director of the Javett Art Centre-UP. The author outlines in descriptive detail, the marvel of indigenous artisanship and techniques as the Mapungubwe Gold Collection is joined on public display in fusion to celebrate the exploration of the ancient and contemporary art of Africa. The curator continues active curatorial and conservation efforts of the Mapungubwe Collection and aims to launch a new Mapungubwe bead gallery in the Old Arts Building- home to the UP Museums.


August 2019 News

Celebrate Heritage Month in September: Staff and students are welcome to experience and engage the heritage collections at UP


During September, South Africa celebrates National Heritage Day (Tuesday, 24 September 2019).  The UP Museums invite you to come explore more than ten different galleries celebrating UP’s art, heritage and sculptural collections. Come see the famous Mapungubwe Collection or view the oldest item of South African furniture, see really ancient objects such as a 5000-year old Mesopotamian clay tablet, and some of the exciting contemporary works such as “Transformation of Identity” and many more unique museum objects and artworks that form part of our collective heritage right on your campus doorstep.  Come and take a leisurely walk of the new UP Sculpture Route, an easy and outdoor stroll to see highlight sculptures on the main campus.


There will be free tours offered during the month of September during the lunch hour from 12:00 to 13:00.  To confirm your spot on a tour as part of the September Heritage Programme on the following dates:

Wednesday, 04 September 2019

Friday, 06 September 2019

Friday, 20 September 2019

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Friday, 27 September 2019


The meeting place will be in front of the Old Arts Building, Hatfield Campus. To make a booking please contact: Nicole Hoffmann

Hours: Mondays to Fridays, 08:00 to 16:00

Tel: +27 (0)12 420 2178

Email: [email protected]; [email protected]




May 2019 News

Successful IMD Celebrations at the UP Museums

International Museum Day 2019 was celebrated on 18 May of every year since its inception by ICOM in 1977 all over the world.  This year, over 35000 museums in over 150 countries participated in the IMD celebrations with over 5000 activities and special events occurring in the week before and after Saturday 18 May. 

As members of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the University of Pretoria Museums participated in the IMD celebrations.  Though, they extended the celebrations to the entire month of May.  As part of these international celebrations, the UP Museums were the only university museum in South Africa and Africa to organize an official special event for IMD that was announced on the ICOM interactive events map. 

Extensive marketing was done in collaboration with the Tshwane museums, the Department of Library Services and the Department of University Relations (DUR).  Moreover, in order to organize and event for IMD, the University of Pretoria Museums collaborated with UP Campus Tours, who are the Heritage and Cultural Tourism Honours students from the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies, to organize a scavenger hunt through the UP Museums.  Red locator signs were pasted on the floor leading to the Museums on the day of the scavenger hunt.  The event was also marketed on the graffiti wall, the Tukkievaria and various plasma screens and digital billboards on Campus.  The scavenger hunt was hugely successful, attracting 805 visitors to the UP Museums on Friday 17 May 2019 alone. 

In addition, the new "UP Museums Beyond Walls Sculpture Route", developed by the staff of the UP Museums, was launched.  The route entails a short 30 minute or a longer one and a half hour walking route of the public sculptures on campus.  These sculptures are also curated by the UP Museums and the route can be either explored by means of a guided tour or through self-exploration by means of the map on the brochure. 


April 2019- Museum News

Museums and Makerspace: 3-D scanning collaboration

The University of Pretoria Museums continually strive to make its art and heritage collections more accessible to the community, this includes the unique sculptural collections to the University. UP Museums teamed up with the Library Makerspace and Digitisation Division to launch a pilot project to create digital content that is more accessible than ever. By employing two- and three- dimensional scanning techniques and methodologies, the project aimed to provide access to physical sculptures in a virtual world.

In April, the team from the UP Museums and Library Makerspace scanned The Basotho Witness (1907), an original work by the South African sculptor Anton van Wouw (1862 - 1945). This 300mm sculpture was initially cast in bronze by the Fonderia Marinelli in Florence, Italy 1975 for the University. Originally, the sculpture portrays the subject of a Basotho mineworker as a witness or perhaps even as the accused in a court of law. Interpretively, the work represents an individual African male portrait with the emotions of both concern and self-respect within a difficult situation. The Basotho Witness is on permanent display in the Villa sculptural museum in the Old Merensky, which also displays many of UP’s other classical and contemporary sculptures. Hopefully, with the help of 3D scanning, more people will be able to access and examine this invaluable sculpture.

The process of 3D scanning uses laser lights to create point clouds (a large set of data points) from the surface of an object to capture every detail and create a three-dimensional object. Additional information on the sculpture (its history and background) is gathered from the primary Van Wouw archival records and then digitised to enrich the 3D model, as no sculpture or artwork within a museum should be complete without its 2D context. The physical 3D-scan was achieved by using an EinScan Pro. To achieve the best outcome, optimal and structural lightning was necessary. The type of material required various angles of scanning, especially where glossy materials caused scanning issues, such as reflection. After several trial attempts to collect the points of data, the object files were rendered and colour textures were employed to enhance the digital experience of the work for life-like accuracy. Certain features of the scan were modified and then further optimised to eventually render a 3D “2019” version of the 1907, The Basotho Witness.

Makerspace and the UP Museums are keen partners in demonstrating an open collaborative environment that allows cross-disciplinary research. Although only a pilot project, it highlighted the possible benefits of using new technologies in the preservation and digitisation of museum collections. The future possibility of printing 3D fabricated models can change the way museums interact with wider audiences. 3D technology is increasingly used in museums worldwide to aid with conservation, curatorial research and interpretation, and in this case, hopefully one day making the UP Museum collections more accessible. In the near future, mobile users may even be able to access museum collections directly from home. This creates benefits for not only the curators of collections, but researchers and audiences in a rapidly technologically advanced world. The team is optimistic in investigating the future possibilities of 3D scanning to other iconic works in the UP Museum Collections and thank the Library’s Makerspace for their ongoing support. Perhaps one day curators will be able to sleep better at night with the knowledge that valuable collections are safely “backed up” in the virtual realm. 


17 July 2018

UP Museums honoured by visit from a French Delegation

The Ambassador of France to South Africa, His Excellency Christophe Farnaud, the French Minister of Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Mr. Nicolas Hulot and his wife Mrs Florence Hulot, as well as a number of other French dignitaries were welcomed to the UP Museums in the Old Arts Building by Prof. Theo van Wyk, the Head of Department of UP Arts.  On Friday 13 July, the tour presented by the public engagement officer, Nicole Hoffmann took the French delegation on an exciting cultural engagement of the famed Mapungubwe Gold Collection, then completed their visit with a viewing of the Letsopa, African Ceramics gallery. Furthermore, the UP Museums were honourably mentioned in Minister’s speech on the occasion of the Bastille Day celebrations of the French Ambassador’s Residence in Pretoria.  Bastille Day is the French National Day (also known as Quartorze juillet) celebrated on the 14 July 2018. It is appropriate to share the UP Museum’s honoured visit also following the great four-goal victory of France in taking the World Cup 2018. The UP Museums felt it appropriate to share their recent special visit as France celebrations continue and the tournament memories live on.


4 July to 14 July 2018

World Choir Games visit the UP Museums

The UP Museums played a small, but wonderful role in the World Choir Games that was recently held on the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield Campus, which served as one of the main venues for choir performances and competitions. The Museums widely opened their gallery doors to the many international and local visitors seeking further cultural appreciation of the Arts. Amongst others, the Werningerode Kammerchor, a German Chamber Choir from the City of Werningerode in Germany, thoroughly enjoyed their guided tour of the museum collections on display in both the Old Arts and Old Merensky Buildings. The World Choir Games were hosted by the City of Tshwane from 4 to 14 July 2018 and what should have been be a quiet winter recess, this year the Museums and most certainly the Hatfield Campus was a bustling chorus of visitors from around the world.  


31 May 2018

UP Arts receives donation of Di Sarro artworks from the Italian Institute of Culture

The Department of UP Arts were grateful to be the recipient of a donation of two valuable artworks that were produced by the renowned Italian artist and a medical practitioner, Luigi Di Sarro (1941 - 1979). These artworks were presented to the University of Pretoria in the Villa Museum, by Anna Amendolagine, the Director of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura (The Italian Cultural Institute) in Pretoria. Such a generous donation is highly-valued, as it is a positive contribution to expand the University of Pretoria’s Art Collection. These two etchings are entitled, “Addio” (1972) and “All’amore” (1975) and reflect Di Sarro’s minimal artistic style as an art experimenter who contributed immensely to the technique of art minimalism and serves as an expression of his artistic language that refined the educational understanding of the aesthetic of the human soul. The extraordinary gesture as an in-kind donation demonstrates the ongoing collaboration and unwavering relationship between the UP and the Italian Cultural Institute. The donation also marked the successful collaboration of the temporary exhibition, “World Disclosure” of Luigi Di Sarro that was on public display in the Villa Museum (Merensky Building) held from the 1 March 2018 until 18 May 2018 that was seen by more than 4274 visitors over the three months of installation. The University of Pretoria greatly appreciates the Di Sarro donation of this works, together with some informative books on the artist and his life, as these works will be placed on exhibition, and will be available for research purposes. More importantly, to also encourage art students to appreciate Luigi’s art subject matter that makes reference to the inner human soul and its analytical interpretation that is based on the relationship between art and life-science that portrays the existence of the human being on earth.


31 May 2018

UP Museums connecting to audiences

International Museum Day is an annual event celebrated internationally by members of ICOM (International Council on Museums) on 18 May.  The UP Museums decided to expand this one-day event to the entire month of May in order to encourage students and staff to visit the museum galleries. 

In this regard, the Department of UP Arts collaborated with the Department of Library Services, the Department of Communication and other staff to schedule guided tours of the UP Museums.  This was vastly successful with about 50 staff visiting the UP Museums during International Museum Month.  In addition, the UP Museums also collaborated with the EFK Honours students, who run the campus tour agency UP Campus Tours, which succeeded in organizing a scavenger hunt on International Museum Day.  Roughly 113 students and staff participated in this event, resulting in their exposure to the wonderful art collections located on campus.  In addition, school learners, international tourists and visiting professors also viewed the museum galleries by means of guided tours and other staff members and students also browsed the UP Museums on their own.  This resulted in a total of about 4360 visitors during the month of May, with 561 visitors on International Museum Day alone. 


18 May 2018



Hyperconnectivity is a term invented in 2001 to design the multiple means of communication we have today, such as face-to-face contact, email, instant messaging, telephone or the Internet. This global network of connections becomes each day more complex, diverse and integrated. In the hyperconnected world of today, museums worldwide join the trend and for this reason, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has chosen the theme “Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics” to celebrate International Museum Day 2018.

It is impossible to understand the role of museums without taking into account all the connections they make. They are an inherent part of their local communities, their cultural landscape and their natural environment. Thanks to technology, museums can now reach way beyond their core audience and find new publics when approaching their collections in a different way. For example, the University of Pretoria Museums have introduced new technology such as adding multimedia elements to their permanent exhibitions in the form of large LED TV screens, digital frames and they have also expanded their online presence with new museum e-brochures and other digital formats, allowing greater access to the museum galleries and collections.

However, not all these new connections are due to technology. As museums strive to maintain their relevance in society, they shift their attention to the immediate community and the diverse groups that comprise the UP community. As a result, over the past few years, the UP Museums have witnessed a major growth in visitor numbers (largely owed to the installation of electronic visitor counters), most particularly local tourists coming to Pretoria and students visiting the museums beyond their formal lectures, engaging students in viewing the collections out of interest and curiosity.  To engage these new publics and audiences strengthen their connections with them and the UP Museums are promoting twelve newly refurbished galleries with new ways of interpreting and presenting their collections.

The University of Pretoria Museums in the Department of UP Arts have been proud members of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) for over a decade and are inviting all students and staff to join in this celebration and come spend time exploring, sharing, learning and connecting with the UP Museums. For booking of tours and appointments please contact the Museum Officer, Nicole Hoffmann via [email protected] or Tel: 012 420 2178. Join ICOM and the UP Museums to celebrate this International Museum Day with participation of more than 36,000 museums hosting events in about 157 countries worldwide.

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) established International Museum Day in 1977 to increase public awareness of the role of museums in the development of society, and it has been steadily gaining momentum ever since. In 2017, International Museum Day garnered record-breaking participation with more than 36,000 museums hosting events in some 156 countries.


9 April 2018- Cherish an Antique Day


The University of Pretoria Museums have under their curatorship a fascinating collection of historical furniture. This collection remains unresearched and has immense potential for studies on European furniture prior to the 19th century. Cherish an Antique Day on the 9 April 2018 is celebrated worldwide to appreciate unique objects that are timeless (at least 100 years old) when quality and craftsmanship were most valued and appreciated for their beauty. The idea of marking this day, is to salute past artistry and create a greater awareness of the type of aesthetic appeal of objet d’art and antiques from the past that withstand the test of time.

The UP Museums are inviting everyone with an interest in antiques to visit the museums during the month of April to celebrate some unique and rare objects of antiquity with very special attention to the Dutch cupboard nicknamed the “Narnia Wardrobe”. This Dutch Baroque Kussenkast or pillow cabinet was used for storing linen, also has a series of secret compartments, and hidden opening mechanisms complete with carved mythical lions above the door opening, to ward off those who wish to try find a way to open it and to unfold a fascinating history.

This monumentally large carved rosewood, oak and ebony cupboard dates from the second half of the 17th century with an overhanging cornice with a central lion and other lion figures at the angles above heavy raised doors with a central panel and a masked key hole. The interior is enclosed with secret compartments, shelves, and drawers. The cabinet is flanked and divided by pilasters with Corinthian capitals or columns and two long drawers below, seated on four large large ball feet.

During the 17th century, secure storage and safes were considered expensive items and so Dutch furniture manufacturers created everyday furniture with masked locks and hidden compartments to keep objects of value such as jewellery, money, tea, porcelain or other high valued fine or imported items well-hidden.

The University of Pretoria Museums invite staff and students to come visit the “Narnia Wardrobe” and experience the fantasy of historical furniture in an attempt to search for the missing key hole, find secret compartments and perhaps other hidden treasures on this historical and valued antique.

For more information please email, [email protected] or Tel: 012 420 2178 for an appointment to see this exciting and interesting antique visit the UP Museums in the Old Arts Building, World of Ceramics Museum, van Tilburg Art gallery, Mon-Fri 08:00 -16:00, entrance free of charge.


2 March 2018

International exhibition

Luigi Di Sarro: World Disclosure

Curated by Prof Paola Ballesi

World Disclosure is an exhibition that commemorates the artistic contribution by two renowned Italian artists who lived in two distant cities: Rome (Italy) and Johannesburg (South Africa). The exhibition showcases excellent works of art by acclaimed sculptors, Luigi di Sarro (1941- 1979) and Edoardo Villa (1915-2011). The works selected for this exhibition reflect both artists’ profound understanding of design principles. These works depict great ability and magnificent use positive and negative spaces that show harmonious linear form, balanced composition, three-dimensional volume and significant understanding of the sculptural material used.

This international temporary exhibition to be held in the Villa Museum in the Old Merensky Building is kindly brought to you by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Pretoria in collaboration with the Luigi Di Sarro’s Centre of Documentation for Contemporary Artistic Research in Rome and the University of Pretoria Museums in the Department of UP Arts


February 2018

“Redefining Social Cohesion” Temporary Exhibition

25 January 2018 – 20 February 2018

This temporary art exhibition involves urban and peri-urban artists whose works of art and subject matter have relevant interpretation on social cohesion patterns of social unity. The objective of the exhibition is to increase art understanding and awareness, as well as uplift and celebrate the quality of visual art talent in the South African context. The exhibition set ups are designed based on the nature of allocated spaces. This exhibition reflects South African social attraction expressions. Selected artists whose artworks speak to a broader audience and depict the epitome of South African social introspection on cohesion. These works help to promote and enrich the culture of art appreciation which is generally not dominant amongst the general South African society. The intended target audience inter-alia includes art lovers; art students; art analysts as well as all interested visitors.

The selected artists, whose works are proudly displayed, are chosen based on the relevance of their artworks to the cohesion art exhibition theme. These are renowned and up-coming artists who have secured an excellent niche on competitive art market platforms. Participation of these artists in the exhibition has a mutual benefit. First, the artists receive a greater publicity spring-board and marketing advantage and second, the art track record of these artists is a draw card needed to attract art lovers to the exhibition venue.

Daily exhibition walk-abouts will be conducted by the exhibition curator, Mr. Daniel Mosako. This exiting exhibition can be found in the Old Merensky building, in the Villa Museum on main campus of the University of Pretoria.  It is open freely for visitors Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:00.  Alternatively, tours to view the collection can also be booked with the museum officer, Nicole Hoffmann, email: [email protected] or phone (012 420 2178).


September 2017

‘Museums beyond Walls’ – a Public Sculpture Route at UP

UP Arts and the Museums celebrate Heritage Month

When walking across the main Hatfield campus at the University of Pretoria, one does not only pass beautiful historic buildings with notable architectural features, but also a diversity of contemporary sculptures and other works of art in situ. These public sculptures and artworks often go unnoticed, yet they form an integral part of the University’s campus heritage. These works comprising of over 40 sculptures are accessible to the public, students and staff, as they form a living extension of the collections curated and managed by the UP Museums.

To celebrate Heritage Month in September 2017, the Department of UP Arts would like to focus attention on UP’s unique public sculpture route as a means of taking the ‘Museums beyond Walls’. Due to easy access, the route is part of a causal walking tour attracting audiences with the history, meaning and interpretation of the sculptures and their sculptors. The public sculpture route allows the opportunity to further engage with current issues such as decolonialism, femininity, gender, local art and access to heritage while exploring the artistic sculpture gems on main campus.

This Heritage Month come explore the artistic treasures on the Hatfield Campus with UP Arts. 


24 August 2017

1990-2017 the Old Merensky Library Building declared a national monument

Twenty-seven years ago the Old Merensky Library was declared as a national monument!

As part of the former legislation, the National Monuments Act Number 28 of 1969, the then Department of National Education declared the building located on the Hatfield Campus as a national monument.  In the meantime, the old legislation has been replaced by the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999.  This act declared that all former national monuments would automatically be granted provincial heritage status.  Therefore, the Old Merensky Library remains an important heritage site on campus. 

In 1933 the University of Pretoria decided to construct a separate building for the library, which was then still located in the Old Arts Building. With a contribution of £5000 from mining geologist Dr Hans Merensky, it was constructed on 11 October 1937. General Jan Smuts laid the foundation stone on 11 October 1937 and on 15 April 1939 the building was officially opened.

In designing the building, architect Gerhard Moerdyk was influenced by various styles, including Art Deco, Neo-Classicism, Arts and Crafts, as well as local styles such as Cape Dutch and Regency. Moerdyk himself described the building as a study in Persian style, with influences from Africa, including Zimbabwe and Ancient Egyptian ruins. He used local materials and incorporated symbols of African origins. The prominent zigzag pattern, for example, is taken from Great Zimbabwe and represents water and fertility. The curving of the walls symbolises an open book. The green, bevelled glass windows were imported from Italy and helped to minimise heat from the sun and also protected paper from ultraviolet light. The design of the building is a source of controversy and speculation with some claiming that Moerdyk used it as a practice run for the design of the Voortrekker Monument, as there are many similiarities between the two buildings. Today, the Old Merensky Library houses the Sculptural Collections of the University of Pretoria Museums, as well as the Mimi Coertse and other library collections.


10 August 2017

UP Arts committed to conserving unframed works of art

The Department of UP Arts have commenced with a major long-term project to conserve over 8600 unframed works of art on paper from the UP-Art Collection. It is well-known that the University is the custodian of an extensive art collection, many of which are on public exhibition across all nine campuses. However, the unframed works of art (e.g. prints, etchings, engravings, drawings and watercolours) tend to go unnoticed and in general, receive little attention often retained in museum storage. This pilot preservation project in association with Art Revive, is done with the specialist expertise of Sandra Markgraaf, an external art conservator. The works on paper range from as early as 16th century engravings through to 19th century European portraits that originate from the Van Gybland-Oosterhoff collection.

Donated to the University of Pretoriain 1937, this collection can be considered the first major donation of an Art Collection. It also contains a one-of-a-kind engraved artwork dating back to 1580, making it the oldest artwork on paper at the University of Pretoria. The preservation process so far has revealed invaluable provenance information with "hidden" sketches, personal hand written notes and priceless information on the back of some of the artworks that were previously mounted and pasted onto board. The conservation process has thus revealed never-before-seen information, which is contributing to wider knowledge and new research about some of the valuable unframed works on paper in the UP-Art Collection.


18 July 2017

UP Museums celebrate Mandela Day by commemorating the Rivonia Trialists

The University of Pretoria's Edoardo Villa Museum is presenting an exhibition honouring the Rivonia trialists in commemoration of Mandela Day this year. The exhibition opened on 18 July – the birthday of South Africa's first democratically elected president, the late Nelson Mandela – and will be on public display until the end of the month.  The Edoardo Villa Museum is located in the Old Merensky Library, on the University's Hatfield Campus.

Artist Marie Vermeulen-Breedt has painted twelve portraits of the trialists, including Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Walter Sisulu and Dennis Goldberg. The portraits are large – to show the iconic status of the trialists – and painted in sepia, symbolising their shared purpose and one-ness.  'The trialists made a historic contribution that led to the political emancipation of South Africans and paved the way for the first democratic government in South Africa. By commemorating their sacrifice, we are reminded of the democratic ideals that underpin our society, and Mandela Day is a fitting time for this reflection,' said curator Daniel Mosako.

'I hope that the value of working towards a common elevated purpose, an element that these heroes embody, will inspire the leaders of today,' said Vermeulen-Breedt.


12 June 2017

French Ambassador visits UP Museums

H.E. Mr Christophe Farnaud, Ambassador to the Embassy of France in Pretoria and Mr Frank Marchetti, Cultural Counsellor, Head of Cooperation and Director of the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) visited the Department of UP Arts on Monday 12 June 2017 to view the new museum galleries and vast array of ceramic collections. Members of the diplomatic core and other representatives from the French Institute were welcomed through the museum galleries, which included a special viewing of the Mapungubwe gold rhino as one of the highlights of the formal visit. His Excellency, Mr C. Farnaud remarked that, "to have access to the national treasures of Mapungubwe in those conditions is a privilege... congratulations to the whole team for the impressive quality of this world-class museum."


09 June 2017

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa views Mapungubwe gold rhino

It is not every day that the UP Museums receive a notable international dignitary such as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from the US State Department. Following her visit to Zimbabwe and South Africa, having met several government authorities and other representatives, Carol Thompson O' Connell the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs mainly deals with health aspects, public diplomacy, public affairs efforts, and related educational issues. She is currently the first officer appointed by the Trump administration to deal with African Affairs. This was her first visit to Africa since her new appointment, and she specifically chose to visit UP, which included a special viewing of the Mapungubwe gold rhino in the Museums. According to Denver Hendricks, Manager of Government Relations and Special Projects she is also interested in "how Africa's coming youth bulge will affect stability and the economy, how that is playing out on campus, and how the university is addressing that to build the next generation of democratic leaders".

Accompanied by Denver Hendricks, during a formal visit to the Old Arts Building on Friday 9 June 2017, Carol O'Connell together with representatives from the US Embassy, Prof Theo van Wyk, Head of the Department of UP Arts, Sian Tiley-Nel, Chief Curator of the Mapungubwe collection, Bernard Hanekom, City of Tshwane, Regional Director of Special Projects and Lucas Luckhoff, CEO, Hatfield Community Improvement District visited the UP Museums with a special focus on the Mapungubwe gold rhino. Remarking, "...if the gold rhino had a name?" O' Connell felt privileged to see one of South Africa's greatest archaeological treasures and remarked on its educational importance being on public display on a university campus and highlighted the importance of the preservation of South African cultural heritage. Mrs O' Connell was clearly impressed with having the brief opportunity to view the priceless collection on her formal visit to the University of Pretoria.

The Department of UP Arts in particular has had good relationships with the US Embassy in Pretoria, who in 2014 and 2015 assisted with a research grant from the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation of the museum bone tool and ivory collection. Future possible support for a proposed Mapungubwe Archive Preservation Project curated by Sian Tiley-Nel, Manager of the Museums and Chief Curator of the Mapungubwe Collection is also currently underway between the UP Museums and the US Embassy, and the DAS visit further supported this valuable partnership with the University of Pretoria.


09 June 2017

Collaboration between UP Arts and the City of Tshwane

On Friday 9 June 2017, the Department of UP Arts formally handed over Phase 1 of the Tshwane Heritage Report to the Executive Director of Culture Libraries and Heritage Services, Mrs Ntuthu Sipambo as part of a collaborative heritage project between the University of Pretoria and the City of Tshwane. The handover ceremony was attended by the Head of the Department of UP Arts, Prof. Theo van Wyk, Museum Manager, Sian Tiley-Nel, Project Manager, Mr Gerard de Kamper, other museum staff and Mr Ishmael Mbokhodo, Director: Heritage Resources Management and Mr James Boale, Deputy Director: Heritage Resources Management in the Department of Community and Social Development Services. In 2009, the University of Pretoria and the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality signed a Memorandum of Agreement. The Tshwane Heritage Report for Region 3 involved the audit, mapping and survey of heritage resources that identified and recorded over 11 310 sites, which are protected by the National Heritage Resources Act, Act No 25 of 1999. This ongoing collaborative mapping project will now enable the Tshwane Metropolitan District to commence with a formal listing of heritage sites for the City of Tshwane.


08 June 2017

Flashback: 35 years ago the Old Arts Building became a museum!

During this month of June 2017, the University of Pretoria Museums are celebrating another milestone, as the Old Arts Building was declared a museum in June 1982 - 35 years ago. 

The foundation stone for this iconic landmark on Hatfield Campus was laid on 03 August 1910 and the building was officially opened by General Jan Smuts in August 1911.  The designer of the Old Arts Building was Percy Eagle, a student of Sir Herbert Baker, the architect of the Union Buildings.  The sandstone building is characterised by Cape Dutch and Neo-Romanesque architecture, with a clock tower, Oregon pine wooden floors and slate staircases.  Stained glass windows feature the old TUC coat of arms. 

In 1968, the Old Arts building was declared a national monument.  35 years ago, it then became a museum.  Today it houses various galleries of the UP Museums and showcases the Mapungubwe collection, including the famous golden rhinoceros, as well as Dutch masterpieces, European furniture and ceramics from South Africa and around the world.  


05 June 2017

Renowned art collector from China visits UP Museums - UP Arts welcomed Mr. Ma Weidu

The Department of UP Arts recently welcomed Mr Ma Weidu, a renowned art collector from China. Mr Ma visited the University of Pretoria Museums on 5 June 2017 on his brief tour to South Africa, whilst he was on an awareness campaign for anti-rhino poaching.  He was particularly interested in viewing the University's Chinese ceramics as well as the Mapungubwe gold rhino. Mr Ma was very impressed with UP's immaculate campus, beautiful surroundings, as well as the remarkable museum collections on public display. According to Prof. Theo van Wyk, Head of the Department of UP Arts, 'it is always a privilege for us to host renowned and interesting visitors with such expertise as Mr Ma’s, who has demonstrated that the interest in antiquity is beyond monetary value and should rather be based on the wider appreciation of priceless art and in this respect, of Chinese culture.’

Mr Ma is the founder of the Guanfu Museum of Classic Arts in Beijing, the first privately-owned museum in China that was official approved as a registered corporate body. As an art lover, Mr Ma has accumulated an expansive collection over twenty years, with a penchant for porcelains from the Ming Dynasty (AD 1338-1644) and Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911), and also has a remarkable collection of Chinese gold, other metal objects and furniture. The Guanfu Museum was opened in 1996 as the first private museum, which he curated by filling it with antiques bought in the late 1970s and 1980s. The museum has expanded to several branches across China: Hangzhou in 2002, Xiamen in 2005 and three more museums on the way in Shanghai, Harbin and Shenzhen.  Ever keen to attract as many visitors as possible, Mr Ma, a serious cat lover, recently named 20 felines as assistant curators, enticing visitors to view both the cats alongside learning something about Chinese porcelains.

Mr Ma views museums "…as a social facility with an educational purpose', and although the Guanfu Museum reflects a personal interest in antiquities, the role of both private and public museums play an important role in promoting knowledge, enlightenment and inspiration in the minds of the museum-goers". Today the Guanfu Museum plays both an academic role and on a social level discussing the many opportunities and challenges that museums face in a rapidly expanding and technologically orientated world.

Born in 1955 in Shandong Province, Mr Ma is regarded as a 'self-made man' with a great passion for art. Coming from a modest background, he was initially a journalist and later a writer and literary editor, publishing hundreds of novels and non-fiction works. He later became a film producer and apart from being a very successful businessman, he is also a renowned art collector. Mr Ma was also a guest speaker on a popular television programme titled, The Lecture Room, with exciting lectures about Chinese porcelains and other antiquities as he hopes to raise public awareness about traditional Chinese culture and the value of preserving collections in museums. 


15 May - 19 May 2017

The University of Pretoria Museums Mark International Museum Week

Museums and contested Histories: saying the unspeakable in museums

Worldwide International Museum Day is celebrated annually on the 18th of May. This day was established by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in 1977 to create public awareness of the role of museums in the development of society and in South Africa.  This day’s popularity has been steadily gaining momentum. Last year, over 35 000 museums from 145 different countries participated in and promoted this important yearly event.  This year on 18 May 2017, the theme chosen by ICOM is “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums”. 

The Department of UP Arts responsible for UP Museums hopes to create greater awareness during International Museum Week from 15 until 19 May 2017. The Mapungubwe collection is open as usual, free of charge during the daily operating hours of Monday to Friday from 08:00-16:00. All visitors are welcome to view the famous gold rhino, one of the most contested archaeological artefacts in South Africa. Plan your visit and explore the other museum collections at your own leisure or to book a specialised tour.  For further information and for arrangements for access to the Hatfield Main Campus of the University of Pretoria, please contact us via email or telephone.  Secure, paid parking is available at the Engineering Building 3 Parkade from the University Road Entrance. 

Join the UP Museums and the world in celebrating International Museum Day!


September 2016

University of Pretoria Celebrates Heritage Month

The University of Pretoria Museums celebrates Heritage Month by inagurating the re-launch of the Museums.This forms part of an expansion project that has been in preparation for the last five years, with new galleries which feature six revamped and expanded exhibition spaces providing wider public access to the Eastern, Western and South African ceramic collections, select artworks and the newest art acquisitions.

The Eastern wing of the Old Arts Building on Hatfield Campus features the World of Ceramics, showcasing the extensive Eastern ceramic collections from China, Japan and other East-Asian ceramics. The Western ceramics gallery displays rare, commemorative War ceramics, European (Dutch, German, French, English, Spanish) tin-glaze ceramics, recent donations of South American prehistoric ceramics, Iranian handicraft, as well as the newly revamped Van Tilburg Art Gallery. The Western wing of the Old Arts Building features the Mapungubwe Gold Gallery, which has also been revamped and the latest expansion is an entire new gallery titled, Letsopa, meaning clay in Sepedi, dedicated to showcasing K2 and Mapungubwe ceramics alongside a selection of ethnographic and historical ceramics (this will only be opne to the public from the 03 October 2016). The upper foyer has been dedicated to the University's local South African ceramic collecions, with a modern and contemporary entrance. In addition, the Old Merensky Building is also home ot the University's sculptural collections, featuring works by Edoardo Villa, Anton van Wouw and many contemporary South African sculptors which can be found in the museum and displayed across campus. 

Heritage Day is annually celebrated on the 24th of September, and is of exceptional importance to all South Africans, wiht out country's myriad of people; our museums are bound to hold something for each and everyone - come and explore your roots with the University of Pretoria Museums the whole month.


August 2016

New exhibition galleries uncovering the fascinating world of the museum ceramic collections of the University of Pretoria will be publicly launched with the University of Pretoria Museums at the end of September. The University of Pretoria Museums are currently extending their exhibition and museum spaces to incorporate more of the Eastern, Western and southern African ceramic collections, as well as the contemporary ceramic collections. The making of a peramanent exhibition is interdisciplinary and highly specialised. It is a complex and time-consuming process where planning, conceptualising and interpretation have to be heavily researched. The aim of this project is guarenteed to deliver a transformed museum space of high-quality that communicates research, education and the public enjoyment of the University of Pretoria ceramic collections. Some of the new galleries already developed include; The Letsopa (meaning 'clay' in Sepedi) Gallery, a project funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund to expand the museum's archaeological collections. New exciting galleries will include the World of Ceramics, covering themes from Eastern and Western ceramics, which include World War I and World War II commemorative war ceramics, European ceramics, Japanese ceramics, ceramics from the Ancient Mesoamericas and Ancient Near East, as well as a new gallery dedicated to the Van Tilburg Art Collection.


15 July 2016

The University of Pretoria Musuems commemorated the start of the Battle of Delville Wood, which took place in 1916, and paid homage to the lives of the University of Pretoria staff, students, alumni and all South African lives which were lost during the First World War. The Last Post, played on French Horn by M. Roper of St Alban's College, was sounded at 12:15 on the main steps of the Old Arts Building, a video of this is availble under "Special Features" on the Home Page.


June 2016

The Mapungubwe Gold Gallery has recieved a major upgrade and revamp with new interpretative displays which introduce the archaeological site of Mapungubwe and cover its rediscovery, excavation and curation history. Ten new exhibition panels featuring more in-depth information about the Mapungubwe Gold Rhino and assoiated gold burials, themes for visitors to explore include indigenous gold technology, and the conservation and symbolism of the gold collection. New seating is now also available for viewing several Mapungubwe videos on a 55" screen, thereby enhancing the experience.


18 May 2016

The theme of 2016 International Museums Day, which is celebrated by more than 35,000 museums worldwide is to enhance the idea of museums as territorial centres involved in actively conserving the cultural landscape, as the primary mission of museums is to oversee heritage, whether it be inside or outside their walls. The University of Pretoria Museums form an important part of the university's cultural landscape as they are the repositores that collect, curate and interpret tangible and intangible testimonies of thier environment.


4 April 2016

The University of Pretoria recieved additional new storage in the Letlotlo Building on Groenkloof Campus. This state-of-the-art facility was offically opened in the 4th of April 2016 by the Department of Facilities Management. This much needed storage space mainly houses the museum's historical furniture collection, the portrait collection, and other smaller collections that are not displayed. The relocation of more than 1296 museums items were moved over a period of a year to the new storage facility.

- Author Nicole Hoffmann
Published by Nicole Hoffmann

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