Z*%Staatsmuseum crn Broom and Andries

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Condition under threat
Date of origin 15 December 1904
Previous names

 ZAR museum,




 Cultural History Museum

Place Pretoria CBD
Street cnr. Boom and Thabo Sehume
 Andries street
Town  Pretoria
Magisterial district Tshwane
Province Gauteng
Country  South Africa
GPS coordinates  25°44'19.35"S 28°11'23.52"E
Planning authority name  Die Hoof van Publieke Werke
Architect/Firm F. Frittelli
Project architect/Designer F. Frittelli
Commissioning owner The Department of Education
Current owner The City of Tshwane
Current occupant none
Previous uses museum
Current use none
  Edit map.jpg



The museum stated their mission to make the public aware of cultural aspects focusing specifically on historic, ethnography, archaeological and the natural sciences (GROBLER, 1994:17). The Staatsmuseum was a general museum with the declared aim to collect and preserve objects of general and historical interest. It effectively served to specialize in South African history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was also a National museum intended to reflect the status of the Republic. The national character of the Staatsmuseum was clear from the nature of its exhibitions, in particular the historical displays, but the exhibited flora and fauna also contributed to its national character. When the Anglo-Boer war broke out, the patriotic aura of the Staatsmuseum became even more pronounced because citizens in the commandos were invited to contribute memorabilia such as lances, rifles, cannons, clothes, banners and papers from the battlefield. These objects were seen as signs of victory [‘zegeteekenen’] used to bolster the national sentiment. The Anglo Boer War, therefore, had a distinct impact on the Museum, with the British influence bringing about many changes. The ZAR museum has had a rich history regarding its role in the cultural development in South Africa, as well as it's initiation through  dr. Mansvelt who had a big roll in the structure and multiple structures throughout Pretoria ( staatsgimnasium, staatsmodelskool and the staatsmeisieskool), earning a significant place in the history of Pretoria as one of the first museums. The structure, even though it is in a questionable state due to a lack of maintenance, should be preserved and maintained due to its historical and cultural significance in South Africa.

Current known heritage status

 According to the set regulations by SAHRA (South African Resources Agency), any structure older than 60 years will need a permit to alter or demolish a structure.

National Resoures Act no. 25 of 1999 (Section 5, 36 and 47)

The Staatsmuseum has been declared a National Monument on 15 September 1978

Possible interested and affected parties

The zoo was founded in 1898 and was Initially part of the State Museum. Therefor the Zoo may possibly be interested in the restoration of the Old Museum and the upkeep of it.


The 1982 establishment of the State Museum can be attributed to Dr. W. J. Leyds, also seen as ‘the Father as the State Museum’ by the majority of the museum board. The main idea behind the museum was to collect natural and manufactured products, as well as art and antiques, of Southern-Africa and other countries that were of value. The museum was initially biased toward artifacts of culture, but soon shifted to national history (Dippenaar 1992:2).
The museum was first housed in a small room, next to the clock tower on the top floor of the ‘Raadsaal” on church square, called the Museum Room. In 1894 that room became too small for the ever increasing collection and was re-located to a small building at Pretoria fresh-produce marked, now knownas Sammy Marks Square. There Dr J.W.B. Gunning was appointed as the museum director in December 1897.
About a year later the collection out grew the building, application was made for a new ‘proper’ museum building, and finaly after several attempts tenders were released for a building on Boom street, where Andries street intersects with it. The first cornerstone was officially laid down on 22 July 1899 by Dr. N.Mansvelt (GROBLER 1994:172), the person who made the new building a reality.
The building process was interrupted by the Second Anglo-Boer war on 11 October 1899. When Pretoria was invaded by the British on 5 June 1900 the Museum was at roof height. The museum opened its doors to the public on 8 June 1900. In 1902 when the war ended the British colonial government employed the original contractor to finish the building which he started, the building was completed in December 1904. (Dippenaar 1992: 9) (Figure 4)
The Museum excelled from the 1930 onward to 1989, where in these years a Louis Botha collection (1922), a complete ‘Voortrekker’ cultural history and a Anglo-Boer war collection among other where added to the rich collection of the Museum. The museum facilitated a Van Riebeeck Festival and celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1989 all of which had a bright and long future in hand for this ever growing Museum.
But, in 1991 it was closed down and abandoned as head office. In that same year n pipe bust caused damage to the displays in eastern wing and another pipe burst a year later caused irreparable damage to the museum, which had to be closed to the public (Dippenaar 1992: 92).
The old Museum has been declared a national monument and evidence of a once thriving museum can still be found upon investigating the building, even though it’s a national monument its not open to the public.

Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces

Current state of building
The Southern Wing. The darkly painted clerestory windows do not allow light to penetrate, leaving the entire ground floor of the south and the west wing extremely dark. The disconnected southern towers consist of two separate timber staircases that lead up to the second storey, with views into the courtyard and out onto busy Boom Street. The top storey allows for privacy and sufficient light and the two rooms on this storey at the entrance were inteded for archieves. The upper story constitutes of neglected pressed steel ceilings. A low timber ceiling is later added under the top floor.
The Eastern Wing.The Eastern wing of the building consists of a high pressed-steel ceiling and clerestory windows which still allow for good light inside the building, despite being partially enclosed and weathered. A further addition to the eastern wing was added within the courtyard, which is dark and dilapidated.
The Western Wing. The Western Exterior is accessed through two big timber doors while the courtyard is accessed by means of four smaller timber doors. During the building phase of the museum, the western façade was the location for the offloading of building materials that were transported to the site by means of horse carriages. Therefore, the façade doors were used as entry onto the offloading platform into the building interior. This provides an explanation for a door height of 4 metres as well as the lack of exterior stairs. The ceiling of the western wing was also of pressed steel and was vaulted in.
The Northern Wing.This wing is warm and filled with light and consists of a staircase as the focal region which leads up to the second floor aswell as the basment. Three isolated display rooms, to the east of the northern wing as well as within the adjacent eastern wing, are later additions. Partially rebuilt storage rooms constitute the western side of the northern wing. On the upper level, one main wall originally divided the space into two distinct sections. Later additions, however, have resulted in many irregular sub-rooms.
The Basement. The basement consists of one main room with interleading arched corridors. Basement windows only occur on the northern façade.
Site Topography. The natural ground level slopes down a storey height from the northern to the southern façade, thus resulting to the development of the basement.
The front of the building is locked down and inaccessible to the public, nature is left to take over as no maintenance is visible from outside, neither inside. Windows are painted black or open/broken and an opportunity is presented for wild life to protrude the building and make it their homes. Exhibition spaces are dilapidated and weathering of the building is evident through the years of abandonment, rotting wood in the roofs structure, sandstone detail reliefs left to the elements without upkeep. The building has suffered substantial damage due to pipes burst and the property is currently in a static non-used space and it is not clear who has control over the property.
Architectural elements.
The building is a double-story plastered brick structure, cladded with sandstone in certain parts, where the decoration was of cement plaster ( and not of sand stone like Le Roux and Botes believed) and features a corrugated iron roof with triangular ventilators. The Museum was designed in an ‘eclectic architectural style’ characteristic of the time period.  The building is situated on Boom street, with Thabo Sehume (Andries) street acting as main visual axis to the entrance of the building.The entrance is central in the symmetrical façade with elaborate detailing such as Corinthian pilasters adding to the character of the exterior. Because the entrance to the museum was highly decorated, it was decided to simplify the rest of the façade on either side of the entrance.  The plan is structured around an inner open courtyard/atrium (such as the Old Council Chamber (‘Raadsaal’) and the Palace of Justice), where it was an important design consideration as it formed a ‘security frame’ around the artefacts and pieces of interest(probably giving one space to reflect on the surrounding history), this was a characteristic trait of the Roman building tradition, the same as that of the time period(GROBLER, 1994: 160). The exhibition spaces all link visually, some physically to the courtyard, the user was taken into account in terms of maneuverability and space as the stoep acted as an extention of the exhibition spaces.  The interior spaces consist of clerestory windows, wood staircases and pressed steel ceilings once again the inner spaces have a visual connection to something, may it be the court yard or an outside space. The final  layout had six large exhibition rooms, and four medium size rooms that were practically applied with high ceiling, large doors, windows ( that where translusent white, that didn't let harmful direct sunlight through) that eliminate restrictive spaces broadening possibilities of wat could be exhibited (GROBLER, 1994:164). 




GROBLER, E. 1994. Die Staatsmuseum van die Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek en sy historiese en etnografiese versamelings.
           MA (Museum studies). thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria.
BRAIN, C.K. Natural History at the Transvaal Museum 1901-1992, in N.J. Dippenaar  (ed.), Staatsmuseum 100, p. 18.
GREYLING, P.J. 2000. Pretoria and the anglo-boer war: a guid. Protea Book House:Menlopark


Father of State Museum

Dr. W.J. Leyds


Floor plan and south elevation 

southern facade

second floor and northen elevation

DSC 0129.JPG

first brick layed down

partial collection

Recent building

old sign 

building entrance 

degrading of roof 



Duard Burger, Henning, Nicholas

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