Natural History Museum Of Zimbabwe

History of the Natural History Museum

Cecil John Rhodes
Cecil John Rhodes

In 1901 when Cecil Rhodes visited Bulawayo for the last time he received two requests, the first from the Chamber of Mines to appoint a Geologist and the second from the Rhodesia Scientific Board who wanted a museum to house their growing collection of minerals. It was suggested that the two bodies get together and on 1st January 1902 The Rhodesia Museum came into being.

Mr F.P. Mennell a Geologist, after which the Geology Gallery is named, took up his post as the first Curator. Initially the ‘new’ museum occupied a room at the Bulawayo Public Library which the growing collections soon got too small for.

In 1905 the Museum Committee bought and moved to the former Congregation Chapel. This, the second museum was opened by Professor G Darwin, President of the British Association in September 1905.

In 1910 a much larger building on the north-east corner of Fort Street and 8th Avenue (now the Parcels Office) was donated to the Museum Committee by the British South African Company. This was informally opened on 21st August 1910, although it was not until late November that it was officially opened by the Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria.

As the museum continued to grow so the impressive 8th Avenue frontage, the fourth museum, was built in 1922. Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, the entrance porch initially doubled up as the cenotaph. Further extensions were added in 1930 and 1936.

In 1936 the Government acquired the museum that was renamed the National Museum of Rhodesia.

The Bulawayo City Council made available land in Centenary Park and the present building begun in 1960 is the fifth museum. The unique round museum was opened to the public on 20th March 1964 but completion of new public galleries and individual displayed has continued up to the present time.

Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe Entrance
Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe Entrance

Initially the museum had a focus on economic geology but with time successive curators have introduced new fields of interest. Many of these researchers have been leading world figures in their fields (see past curators). They have left us with one of the best collections of Zimbabwe’s, and indeed the region’s, natural heritage.

In 1981, under a policy of centralization, the National Museums and Monuments streamlined the operations of its five museums and as a result the National Museum was renamed the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe (NHMZ) occupying the Western region of the country. All the natural science collections from the other museums were moved to the NMHZ.

Today the museums research collections and exhibits include geology and fossils, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates, as well as broad cross-section of the social history of southern and central Africa.

In line with the museums policies for research and conservation, the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe offers education programmes to both students and the public.

It has, and seeks to renew, collaboration with other research institutes and museums both in the regional and internationally.

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258 reviews on
David Reason
David Reason
26/01/2021
This is a fabulous treasure for Zimbabwe with around 7 separate galleries of very well presented exhibits such as geology, entomology, herpetology, African mammals, colonial history, local African tribes, astronomy, humankind and mycology (fungi). It also houses hundreds of thousands of specimens in around 10 Collections, including arachnids, Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), birds, snakes, plants and fungi - these Collections can be seen but by appointment only. The museum staff are pleasant and knowledgeable. There is an onsite café to pick up a snack or two and a public library of really interesting natural history books. There is also good info on the two World Heritage sites managed by the museum, these being the Matobo World View site and the Khami Ruins which are also magical places to go and visit!
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Angel Bert
Angel Bert
05/12/2020
It was lovely experience
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Fritz Madida
Fritz Madida
03/12/2020
Most fascinating collection of historical artefacrs
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CLIVE SIBANDA J
CLIVE SIBANDA J
26/11/2020
Thank you for the important information
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Thabo Pricel
Thabo Pricel
22/11/2020
Amaze balls
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Nkosinathi Mdudo
Nkosinathi Mdudo
07/11/2020
Such an amazing experience
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