The list: Lesser known SA museums you should get acquainted with

As travel restrictions are lifted, many of us may be tempted to explore the country once more.  We found museums across South Africa that are not very well known but are filled with stories. 

Eastern Cape: Ganora Fossil Museum in Nieu Bethesda 

Located on Ganora Farm, Nieu Bethesda is the Ganora Fossil Museum. The museum offers a fossil safari and a fossil museum and walk. Visitors can also experience hiking, swimming and biking activities on the farm. 

Ganora Fossil Museum also offers its visitors accommodation, rock art sites, medicinal plant walks, karoo farm experience and boer war history. Ganora is a popular venue for multi day art and cooking courses. 

For more information and booking options, visit Ganora’s website.

Free State: Bethlehem Museum 

Located in Bethlehem, Free State, the museum is housed in the old Nazareth Mission Church on Muller Street. You will find a number of historical items at the museum, one of which is an old steam train which is housed on the grounds. The museum has a strong focus on the town’s history and culture so you will notice a fair number of farming implements and period furniture that depict the lifestyle of former residents of the town. If you’re interested in war you’ll be pleased to know that there is a very good collection of war memorabilia at the Bethlehem Museum. After a tour, visitors can enjoy food at the Bethlehem Restaurant.

For more information and booking visit Bethlehem’s Facebook page.

Gauteng: Workers’ Museum

Located in Newtown, Johannesburg, the museum tells the story of the migrant workers who built the city of gold. Having left their homes and families, black migrant workers faced slave-like conditions as they toiled to build Johannesburg. The museum tells an important story about  The museum also shows the vibrancy and creative resilience of migrant workers’ culture. 

For more information and booking contact  011 492 0593

KwaZulu-Natal: Minerva Museum and Private Nature Reserve 

Located in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal is the Minerva museum and private nature reserve. The museum is home to all sorts of fascinating objects. On display is a wide range of old cars and tractors as well as bicycles and motorbikes. Make sure you have a look at the old cattle railway cart which has now been converted into a pub – really interesting! The reserve is beautiful with spectacular views of the valley below.

For more information and booking contact +27 (0)82 572-3455

Limpopo: Masorini Village Museum

Located within Kruger National Park is Masorini Village Museum. The Masorini Village offers a fascinating insight into a stone-age hunter-gathering society, long before the arrival of Europeans in South Africa. Research revealed that the village was inhabited by people belonging to the baPhalaborwa clan, and that they had advanced towards having their own developed technology, which existed before any Europeans influenced local inhabitants. The information and history of the area makes for a fascinating experience, shedding light on hunter-gatherers, aspects of the stone-age and co-existing with the environment.

For more information and booking contact  013 735 3547

Western Cape; 18 Gangster Museum in Khayelitsha

Located in Khayelitsha, Cape Town is the 18 Gangster Museum.  The 18 Gangster museum’s installations are curated by ex-offenders who share their lived experiences of prison life and gang membership. Part of the installations are immersive text and a prison cell replica. It aims to offer a better understanding of the circumstances that lead to joining a gang, and debunk any myths we may have by introducing positive alternatives to gangsterism. Bookings for the museum to be made 24 hours in advance on their webpage, and will be in full operation observing social distancing measures as soon as South Africa moves to stage 1 of Lockdown. Siyabulela at 18 Gangster Museum has informed us that a museum tour per person costs R90. During lockdown the 3-hour walking tour of Khayelitsha will cost R450 per person.

Northern Cape; The Pioneers of Aviation Museum in Kimberley  

The Pioneers of Aviation Museum in Kimberley is known as the birthplace of the South African Air Force. A reconstructed hangar houses the museum’s collectibles and artifacts. A flight training Crompton Paterson biplane replica is at the hangar as well. The history of South African aviation is well documented, and visitors will be well schooled on the history of flight.

For bookings and information contact +27 0538392722

Spider Lady in Hanover, Upper Karoo, Northern Cape

Marie De Jager has transformed her home located on Driekoppen farm in the Upper Karoo into a haven for creepy crawlies. She is affectionately known as the Spider Lady. She has spiders and scorpions galore all housed safely in cages and tanks for visitors to view. Through the years she has learnt so much about the eight legged creatures. Marie has found that whilst most folks find them scary, they are an important part of our ecosystem. Her aim is to pass on this knowledge to anyone who visits.

Call Marie on to set up a visit and get up close and personal with all types of arachnids from tarantulas to velvet spiders.

Free State; Adam Kok House in Philoppolis

Adam Kok house in Philoppolis, a small town in the Free state is said to be the oldest surviving home in the town.  The area came about after a group of folk; the Griqua moved there in the 1800’s from the Cape Colony. Griqua people were Khoi slaves who had also intermixed with European colonists. The move to the Free state was under the leadership of Adam Kok III, a freed slave. Visitors can see the home Adam lived in, along with two naval cannons the colonial government gave to the Griqua folk. The home provides insight into the rich and fascinating history of the Griqua people.

Prices and bookings to explore the museum are available on telephone request at + 27 051 7730050

North-West; The Mphebatho Cultural Museum in Pilansberg National Park

The Mphebatho Cultural Museum in the North West province is a community-owned museum that memorializes and captures the life of the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela folks. Interestingly the museum occupies a 1930’s schoolhouse. The Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela of the Tswana folk were split between Kgatleng in Botswana and Moruleng in the North West. The museum is decked from top to toe in the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela culture and traditions. The museum is an educational experience as it immerses its guests into the preservation of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela life.

Entry to the museum is R30 for adults and R20 for children. Bookings can be made telephonically on +27 0837247770 or email

Virtual Museums

With social distancing still encouraged, virtual museums have now become more commonplace. Here is a list of our favorites: 

The Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology provides a platform for citizen scientists to contribute to biodiversity projects. Instead of specimens in draws or bottles, they have digital photographs arranged in a database

Iziko Museums of South Africa have three exhibits to view online.

The Standard Bank Art gallery took their Lumieres ‘d Afriques showcasing 54 artists from all over Africa online after Covid-19 Lockdown hit us.

The biggest virtual museum space was put together by Google Arts and Culture that curated 500 museums and galleries worldwide into one link. 

Compiled by Ling Shepherd and Kelly Mutizira

Featured image via Wikicommons