National Museum, Bloemfontein

National Museum Bloemfontein | Natural history, cultural history and art

The National Museum Bloemfontein

The National Museum Bloemfontein dates back to 1877. It’s initial collections and displays comprised mainly rarities from around the world. Since then, the Museum has developed into an institution of international stature. With focus on natural history, cultural history and art. Intensive research has gone into the valuable collections of importance. Through its displays and education programmes, the Museum renders a public service to a diverse audience. Engaging all in enjoyable and enlightening experiences of enrichment and learning opportunities.

The Museum today includes 13 research departments.

    • Both Natural Sciences and Human Sciences
    • An Art Museum
    • Education Department
    • Information Services section and Library
    • Administration section and two technical departments

There are various activities available during school terms.

The Satellite museums

Oliewenhuis Art Museum is a declared national institution. With a mission to collect, conserve and exhibit works of art to represent the heritage of South African art.

Freshford House Museum
Still standing today, the Freshford House Museum is one of few houses of the upper middle class Edwardian era.

First Raadsaal Museum
The First Raadsaal is the oldest remaining building in Bloemfontein. Depicted here you will see the history of the establishment of the Free State.

Wagon Museum
Situated on the same premises as the First Raadsaal Museum. The Wagon Museum houses a collection of historical wagons and carriages.

Florisbad Research Station
Florisbad Quaternary Research Station is a fossil-bearing spring mound. Situated 45 km northwest of Bloemfontein, there is a lot to see and do here. A holiday resort with various accommodation solutions, team building and mineral water baths.

Scenes at the National Museum Bloemfontein

National Museum Bloemfontein | Natural history, cultural history and art

African Cultures

The Anthropology Hall incorporates ten ethnological displays. These reflect the region’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. There is also a display of African musical instruments.

Historical Street Scene

Built in the late 1970’s, The Historical Street Scene is a popular attraction. This scene shows daily life of ordinary people at the end of the 19th / early 20th century. Household articles of the time show a stove and fridge of that period in a kitchen. Businesses depicted in the exhibition were recreated according to advertisements in local newspapers.

The exhibition extends over 400 m2 and took about 4 years to research and to build. The scene comes alive with fibreglass models of “people” going about their daily activities. All 16 models were created by the Museum’s Art Department staff. Their creations were modeled according to Museum staff as models.

The history of Bloemfontein/ Mangaung

Experience the rich history, of over 150 years of Bloemfontein/Mangaung and it’s surroundings. See our diorama based on a painting of Bloemfontein by Thomas Baines in 1851. The exhibition showcases the history of the city and the role that its inhabitants played. See our diorama based on a painting of Bloemfontein by Thomas Baines in 1851. This exhibition opened to the public on 18 September 2002.


The exhibition focuses on the history of Batho, Bloemfontein’s oldest existing township. Founded in 1918, Batho’s existence stems from a decision by the then Bloemfontein Town Council. The decision was to move all black and ‘Coloured’ people from Waaihoek. Compared to other locations, Batho was described by many as a ‘model location’, despite its shortcomings.. Batho had an orderly layout. The houses were built according to architectural plans, and many residents laid out gardens to beautify their homes. Today many of the original red brick houses built during the 1920s and 1930s still stand.

Live displays

The live displays showcase living examples for lessons provided by the Education Department. Ideal for school groups, the live displays are great to stimulate a keener interest. The live specimens currently on display:

  • Fish
  • A terrapin
  • Platannas
  • Lizards and snakes
  • Cockroaches,bees and tarantulas
  • And freshwater crabs & crayfish

Temporary Exhibitions

The museum runs four to six temporary or special exhibits throughout the year.


The exhibition offers a wide-ranging view of past human activities in the central interior of South Africa. ..And the principle of archaeological stratigraphy is a central component in the display. The exhibition includes a representative display of stone tools used by prehistoric humans. There is a reconstruction of prehistoric metal production. A display of Iron Age settlements and more recent farming communities in the Free State. A reconstruction of a sandstone cave containing prehistoric rock art. A Stone Age hunting scene from the well-known Florisbad archaeological terrain.

Bird Hall

Opened in 1988, the bird hall focuses on a more educational and theme-orientated approach.
Topics covered are include:
Larger raptor species that occur in the higher altitude mountain areas.
A display explaining adaptations of birds to an aerial lifestyle
Different shapes of birds’ wings, adapted for different types of flying
Different shapes, comparative sizes colouring and hatching of birds’ eggs
Different types of nests, bird migration, local garden birds and flightless birds.


In the Geology Hall the Museum’s large and beautiful mineral collection is on display.


The herpetology hall has various displays set to introduce the viewer to the world of reptiles & amphibians. The hall includes some very special specimens such as:
A Nile crocodile, tortoises, an Alligator snapping turtle, a Gila monster, an Anaconda skin and freshwater fish found in SA.

Displays reflecting other aspects of reptiles and amphibians include:

  • The differences between snakes and lizards
  • The most venomous South African snakes and those of the world
  • An African Rock Python constricting a Springbok
  • A diorama depicting the habitats of reptiles and amphibians in nature
  • A Mountain Tortoise laying eggs
  • Sungazers sitting outside a cross-section of their burrow
  • And predatory techniques of snakes, examining different venoms, fangs and methods of killing prey


The Invertebrate Hall depicts biological aspects of invertebrates. Such as movement and communication and also the biodiversity of invertebrates. The scene is rich in educational value, and is often visited by school and tertiary students from the UFS.

Mammalogy Hall

Most of species exhibited in the mammal display are indigenous to the Free State. But there are species showcased from the rest of southern Africa and the world. Some are very rare, such as the Aye-aye from Madagascar and the Chimpanzee from central Africa. Or the Orang-utan from Borneo & Sumatra and Canadian Lynx. These are only a few of many in the museum’s Mammalogy Hall.

The Black Wildebeests exhibited in our diorama was instituted in 1932 by Walter Meer in Leipzig, Germany. In the 1800’s this species roamed the plains of South Africa in herds of thousands. The Black Wildebeest is endemic to the central grasslands of South Africa.

Paleontology hall

The paleontology hall depicts a proposed view of evolution on Earth, beginning at about 4000 million years ago. The exhibit includes suggestions on how life first began on Earth. In this showcase are some of the strange animals of the Pleistocene (2,6 million to 10 000 years ago) compared with their modern relatives.

The Cambrian Period and first appearance of vertebrates (animals with backbones) are on show. A touch exhibit for the blind, Karoo reptiles (main display) and dinosaurs and other reptiles. A wealth of fossils and reproductions are on display throughout this hall.

Astronomy (NEW): The Solar System display provides the visitor with an overview of the planets, moons, asteroids and more.
It also gives the viewer an idea of the relative sizes of the different planets. ..And their size in relation to the Sun. Here is also a fun interactive display of an actual meteorite! Which is open for visitors to touch and lift to get an understanding of its density and mass.

Dreyer Hall

This hall is named after Prof. T. F. Dreyer, who discovered the famous Florisbad skull in 1932. In 1936 Dreyer donated his Florisbad collection to the Museum.

The Dreyer hall contains disparate displays of an archaeological nature. These include artifacts from:

  • Ancient Egypt and Rome
  • Cultural material from the Pacific islands
  • Material from an Iron Age archaeological site near Winburg, Free State
  • Stone Age archaeological material from Matjes River in the southern Cape
  • Artifacts from the Museum’s anthropology collection
  • Some fossils and stone tools from Florisbad, central Free State
  • And a cast of the famed skull

The Dreyer Hall is scheduled to be re-designed soon.

Visit us Monday to Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm

Saturdays from 10:00am – 5:00pm

Sunday and Public Holidays from 12:00pm – 5:00pm

Ticket prices are Adults: R5.00 | Scholars: R3.00 | Pre-school: R1.00

Visit the National Museum Bloemfontein. Audio guides are available on request. Guided tours are available per booking.

36 Aliwal Street
South Africa

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