Day Forty-Six – Dipping a Toe in the Sea of Museums

I was supposed to strike out on my Boulder’s Beach adventure today, however clouds, a chance of rain and a need for sleep encouraged me to abandon that idea.

Around eleven I finally rolled out of bed, feeling less well-rested than one might assume, and headed to the South African Museum and Planetarium. This SHOULD be called the South African Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, as the majority of the exhibits were ecological, not cultural.

Grey day

The museum is undergoing extensive renovations, about 3/4 of what I was able to access was new, 1/4 old and I wasn’t able to access at least a third, if not a half, of the building. The new displays were of an extremely high quality. There is a comprehensive chondrichthye exhibit:

Zoom in and read his blurb. This guy is fascinating!

As well as whale and dolphin exhibit:(There’s lots more, of course, but you’re not actually supposed to take photos in the museum so I was a bit stingy with my photos.)

They had a mammal section, and I have to say the taxidermy was astounding.

These are two of the old cases. They’re impressive. Though mostly for volume, not for depth.

This is just in here for “holy cow” reasons. Those quills are over a centimetre in diameter in places. Could you imagine?!

There was a dinosaur section. It was the section that I felt showed the most differences to its North American counterpart. The dinosaurs depicted were obviously different. The “mammal-like” reptiles took up more than half the area. And there was a lot of space given over to explaining how archeologists came to the conclusions they did about each set of bones. Also they were more transparent about what we know and what we’re just guessing about.

I totally thought this was made. But no, it turns out these dinosaurs actually had bones in their globes.
GIANT extinct crocodile.

They has a small bit about Nelson Mandela and a small bit about the cave paintings of the San people. The cave paintings exhibit replaced the “bushmen diorama” that showed the plaster casts of “pure” bushmen that were standard in every African colonial museum. While a small notice acknowledges that, I appreciated how the Namibian museum handled the issue better. They detailed the inhumanity of the practice, describing the fear, pressure and intense discomfort the models underwent. The museum made it clear that the practice was shameful, that it was born of erroneous ideas about human evolution and then kept the clay casts on display, with mirrors and models of white “observers” to bring the issue emotionally home. I think shoving the casts into storage and pretending it never happened does not honour the memory of the people that were so badly misused.

And of course, some Mandela wisdom:I opted out of the big social evening myself, Sullie and Owen had instigated. First Thursdays is held on the first Thursday of every month. All the art galleries have free admission and serve free wine. A crowd from the hostel was supposed to go, and they have, but I am incredibly wiped and decided to stay home and see if bed by eight will happen for me.


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