Johannesburg’s museums house the history, culture and innovation of not only the city but also the country. Its museums contain everything from the unique art created by the culturally diverse citizens to leaps in medicine and industry. Here are the top museums to visit in Johannesburg to uncover the evolution of the city and peek into the character of South Africa.
South African National Museum of Military History
South Africans have fought in one World War, in local conflicts and conflicts on the continent of Africa. So if you are fan of the industry of war, and local history then the Museum of Military History is the place for you.
The museum was opened in 1947 by Field Marshal Jan Smuts, one of the founding members of NATO. The museum documents South Africa’s military past and contains pieces such as the first jet fighter, the ME 262. Sections on the Boer War and The Umkhonto weSizwe the military wing of the ANC. And the War Store where the visitor can purchase, badges, weapons, uniforms and books.
The James Hall Museum of Transport
The James Hall Museum of Transport contains vehicles from over four hundred years of transport. The museums tracks the evolution of transport from early steam powered vehicles and early versions of the bicycle to modern cars and buses.
The museum is conveniently divided into sections based on what powers the vehicle. There is an animal powered section, steam powered pedal, and fuel based. Pick the era and vehicle type that fascinates you the most.
Adler Museum of Medicine
South Africa has been the centre for staggering medical innovations such as the first heart transplant and the invention of the CAT Scan.
Learn more about medicine and South African impact on it at the Adler museum of Medicine. Founded in 1974 by Dr Cyril and Mrs. Esther Adler, the museum consists of 40,000 medical objects, pictures, document, books and medallions that depict the history of medicine. Gaze into the medical rooms of the past with reconstructions of a Sangoma’s hut, a 20th century Johannesburg pharmacy, a Dental surgery, and an operating theatre.
Wander around yourself or take a guided tour to get the gory details and fascinating facts.
Wits Art Museum
The Wits Art Museum is a wellspring of contemporary and historical art. It contains works of art from all over Africa, including sculptures, textiles, beadwork, basketry, print making, painting, and many others.
The WAM collection includes works displayed by famous South Africa artists such as Gerard Sekoto, JH Pierneef, Eduardo Villa and Penny Siopis. The museum’s classical African collection boasts works from all corners of the continent.
Wander through the exhibits, and view the Robert Hodgins, Gerard Sekoto and African Art collections or take an informative guided tour
Bensusan Museum of Photography
The Bensusan Museum is a unique collection of equipment, books, and photographs that pay homage to the simple, yet magical act of capturing an image. “The museum will illustrate the history of photography and South Africa as seen through the eye of the camera.” – Dr Arthur Bensusan.
This ode to the captured image was founded by amateur photographer and one time mayor Dr Arthur Bensusan. It contains items such as a camera that belonged to Winston Churchill, the first negative ever made, by the inventor of Photography William Fox Talbot. And what is probably the first official war photograph, taken in 1854 during the Crimean war.
The museum is interesting for all ages and documents and educates the visitor on “Writing with light” like few others.
Museum Africa explores the glory days of Africa past, back when the first civilisation thrived. The museum journeys through ancient Africa to inform younger generations about the rich history of early African civilisations. The Africa museum collection focuses on the art, linguistics of indigenous cultures.
One of the main displays includes more recent history in the form of the Treason Trial, which included political leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli and Walter Sisulu.
The museum also has temporary displays, currently on display is Cartoons in Context, a collection of political cartoons from the 1700′s to the 2000′s. An exhibition on Ghandi’s Johannesburg, the birthplace of his civil resistance movement. Mapping sexuality in the city, which follows the routes and experiences of eight, gay, lesbian and transgendered people through Johannesburg.
Visit Museum Africa a museum with insight into the continent of Africa and its people.
The Peacemaker Museum
The Peacemaker Museum is an exhibition of the men and women who have won the Nobel peace prize. It documents the effect they have had on and the trials and tribulations they endured to bring peace to their countries.
The museum specifically focuses on South Africa’s own Nobel peace prize laureates Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, FW De Klerk and Nelson Mandela. Visit The Peacemaker, learn about the laureates and add your own symbol of peace to the exhibit in the form of an origami white Dove.
The museums in Johannesburg display both the rich history, and the interesting culture of this vibrant city and the country as a whole.