For the love of university museums: The UP Museums to reopen on 1 February 2021

Posted on January 28, 2021

The University of Pretoria Museums (UP Museums) are set to reopen to visitors on Monday 1 February 2021 after a ten-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UP Museums will implement the latest safety guidelines recommended by authorities, designed to ensure all visitors, staff and students can experience the museums again in a safe environment.

Dr Sian Tiley-Nel, Head of UP Museums, explained that in response to the effects of the pandemic, the museums have also had to revise their opening hours, and implement entrance fees for visitors who don’t fall into special categories.

“As a further result of the global pandemic affecting all museums and their financial sustainability, we have implemented as of this year and for the first time, nominal entrance fees for all external visitors to continue experiencing our quality service and new upcoming exhibitions,” she says. “Please visit our website for further details, and be assured that access for students, staff, alumni, and learners remains free of charge, and reduced rates apply for other students and pensioners.”


Old Arts Building is home to The UP Museums and the front facade features two iconic bronze Lechwe by the South African artist Coert Steynberg.

Dr Tiley-Nel added that the UP Museums will be open on reduced hours – Mondays to Fridays from 8am to 1pm – and said UP Museums staff have been working hard to prepare the museum buildings and exhibition spaces.

UP has already put several measures in place to ensure compliance with COVID-19 health protocols, one of which is the completion of the HealthCheck self-monitoring app checklist. This must be completed before entering UP grounds. Other health measures such as temperature checks are also in place to ensure safety on campus.

“The UP Museums encourage visitors to enjoy the relaxing outdoor sculpture route on the Hatfield campus as an ideal option for social distancing and to take the opportunity of experiencing the beautiful campus gardens and landscape,” Dr Tiley-Nel said. “New tour packages, limited to 10 per group, are additional new initiatives to try out. All UP Museums visits are by appointment only, as a visitor permit will need to be issued and presented at the entrance gate. All those interested should please e-mail [email protected] for all bookings and appointments.”

Safety measures in the galleries include foot-pedal sanitisers and social distancing signage. High-touch areas and front-of-house screens are regularly sanitised. “While visitor numbers may be limited within certain galleries, guests must expect one-way routes for improved visitor flow that is controlled to minimise person-to-person contact. It will be compulsory to wear a face mask covering your nose and mouth. Museum facilities have ample signage and compliance posters to remind visitors of regulations and social distancing measures. Be assured that enhanced cleaning and hygiene practises are in place,” Dr Tiley-Nel said.


The newly acquired "Pensive Rabbit Sculpture" by Michael Teffo that is being exhibited for the first time in the museum. 

Lelani Nicolaisen, Curator of Art Exhibitions & Galleries overseeing the Villa Museum, said the reopening also comes with a variety of changes including a newly refurbished Sculpture Gallery located in the Old Merensky Building.

  • The Sculpture Gallery completed its first phase of upgrades during 2020, and the space was greatly refurbished and enhanced. Visitors will be welcomed into a fresh, more contemporary space, with redesigned exhibition plinths and newly curated spaces. Original sculpture acquisitions can be explored, such as works by South African artists Philiswa Lila, Johannes Maswanganyi, Bonnie Ntshalintshali, and Michael Teffo among others.”

Nicolaisen added that the UP Museums are also excited to welcome back Sun Man, an iconic artwork by Lucky Sibiya.

  • Sun Man has been on temporary loan to the Javett Art Centre at UP, and is now exhibited within the UP Museums Sculpture Gallery. The locally significant Edoardo Villa and Anton van Wouw collections will also be returned to display after the long-awaited opening of the UP Museums. Some new acquisitions will challenge new decolonisation conversations of South African sculpture as a medium.”

According to Dr Tiley-Nel, more highlights for 2021 include an exciting upcoming temporary exhibition of contemporary ceramics from the iconic Corobrik Collection, which exemplifies a new partnership between the UP Museums, Corobrik, Pretoria Art Museum (City of Tshwane) and Ceramics Southern Africa.


The new intended loan item ceramic piece "Bambanani Bowl" by Sisanda Mbana in the UP Museums new Corobrik exhibition. 

“This change is also our social response to decolonisation, as for now we replace the Eastern Ceramics Gallery with more than 150 local South African ceramics. The Corobrik Collection plays an important role for the promotion of ceramic art in southern Africa, and the University of Pretoria has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with Ceramics Southern Africa as well as with the City of Tshwane’s Pretoria Art Museum. This new exhibition will be curated by Gerard de Kamper, Curator of the Museum Collections, and is due to be installed during February.”

Dr Tiley-Nel said the UP Museums as a team are immensely proud of their resilience during the pandemic, and are grateful for the anticipated reopening. She wished to thank the Office of the Registrar, the UP Executive, and other internal critical partners such as the Departments of Security Services, Global Cleaning Services and Facilities Management for their ongoing support in assisting with the preparations.

“I am delighted that, after ten long months and over 300 lockdown days, we can reopen our doors and welcome our UP community back into our beautiful and creative galleries. All staff are looking forward to seeing the UP Museums hopefully soon becoming bustling spaces. We especially hope domestic tourists will appreciate, be inspired by and learn from the collections curated by the University of Pretoria. We realise that the return of international visitors will take time. But most importantly we serve the university community, so we are excited to welcome students and staff back as some of our first visitors.”

- Author Masego Panyane

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