Museums, Art Galleries and Botanical Gardens

ID #1647

Victoria West Museum, Karoo, Northern Cape.

The museum consists of two halls. The BJ Kempen Hall (fossil hall) covers the prehistory and natural history of the Karoo, while the Cultural History Hall depicts the history of Victoria West, its people and environs.

o BJ Kempen Hall: In prehistoric times, long before the coming of man, the Karoo was wet and marshy with an abundance of animals.   The focal point of the display is Atherstonia seeleyi, a fish from some 250 million years ago.   It is unique because of the structure of its scales, which served as a type of shell as the fish had no backbone.   The most complete specimen ever found is preserved in the museum, together with other types of fossils from the district such as Bradysaurus, an herbivorous reptile that lived 250 million year ago.
o Natural History Exhibition: The Karoo is an area of extremes – searing heat in summer and icy cold winters. The land is beautiful, wild and open, with stony plains, salt pans and sand.  The plants have adapted to survive such circumstances.  The bushes give the Karoo its special character and the meat of both game and lamb their flavour.  Aspects of the Karoo biome are displayed.  The riverine rabbit, an endangered species found in the region merits its own special display in this section. Time is needed to appreciate the richness of Karoo plant and animal life.  Painted panels serve as an introduction to the animals and plants.  Did you know that the Karoo supports 1000 different types of plants?  Some are endemic to the Karoo and may be seen on walking trails on Moonlight Hill and the Ribbok Plateau.  There is also an historical walking trail through the streets of the town.
o Cultural History Hall: The town was founded in 1843 when the Dutch Reforned Church bought a portion of the farm Zeekoegat from the estate of Mr J H Claassens.  It was named after Queen Victoria, but to avoid confusion with an Eastern Cape district of the same name, the “West” was added later.   The history of the church, consecrated in 1850, is set out in a display consisting of documents, old maps, Bibles, items from the first communion service and the church’s first organ.   It was declared a national monument in 1992.  The Victoria West Messenger, one of the oldest weekly newspapers in the country, celebrated its centenary in 1976.  The display also contains items concerning the Karoo Press.  The first bank in town, known as the Victoria West bank, is now the oldest branch of Standard Bank in the country.  The signatures of the original shareholders, dated 1856, were written on pigskin several meters long.   The history of sport is well displayed.  A doll collection, with some items dating from 1820 may be seen, together with a collection of utensils and furniture. Artefacts from the early Stone Age found in the district are displayed, together with photographs showing aspects of San (Bushman) and Xhosa life. 

Open from 07h45 to 13h00 and 14h00 to 16h45 during the week.  Closed on weekends and public holidays. The museum is a component of Museums Northern Cape.

#47 Church Street, Victoria West, which is on the N12 northeast of Beaufort West, which is at the intersection of the N1 with the N12. BGVictoria

Contct:   +27 (53) 621 0413 telephone and fax


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Last update: 2009-05-25 16:17
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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