Geology – Comes from the Greek gê meaning earth and is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change.
Palaeontology – Is the study of prehistoric life. The term itself originates from the Greek palaios meaning old or ancient and ont, meaning creature.
When this museum in Bulawayo was started in 1901 its focus was primarily economic geology. Its first curator was a Geologist, F.P. Mennell (see past curators). His subsequent scientific contribution to the understanding of the nation’s geology was outstanding. Subsequent curators have continued this work.
The size and scope of the geology collection is impressive. It contains over 15 000 rock samples and reference to it has played an important part in the economic development of the country. It is one of the best and most comprehensive collections in Africa containing the Broken Hill (Zambia) rare lead/zinc minerals and crystals and the Globe and Phoenix (Zimbabwe) Kermesite specimens.
The displays in the geology gallery, called the Mennell Gallery, showcase a small part of this collection – in particular various gem, crystal and rock samples. The walk through mine in the gallery is one of the key attractions to visitors to the museum, recreating the sights and sounds of an actual chromite mine as are so common across central Zimbabwe.
The Palaeontological collection is of international importance although more recent than the geology collection being started in 1941. It has over 2500 specimens including plant fossils, various dinosaurs (Proauropod, Sauropod, Therapsid) as well as early mammals, fish and other invertebrates. Zimbabwe’s fossil record is presented to the public in the Mennell Gallery where its unique dinosaur fauna form centre stage. This includes displays on Syntarsus, Messospondyls, and Vulcanodon and the collection houses the type for Syntarsus rhodesiensis and Vulcanodon karibaensis.