What’s old at The Klerksdorp Museum in the North-West Province?
The buildings themselves are old. The main museum, built of a sturdy and attractive sandstone, was once a prison operated until a time so recently (the early 1970s) that occasionally former inmates visit the Museum to share their experiences of their “stay” in the form of recorded interviews. Several other buildings, including the Warden’s House, also house the collection which includes Victorian and Edwardian era furnishings and a mock up of a room of the period.
Elsewhere are farm implements, an ox wagon, a diamond washer and archaeological exhibits.
Among the latter are well preserved examples of Khoisan rock art. Modern cultural artefacts are traditional African Bow Music and other traditional instruments incorporated into very interesting displays.
Klerksdorp and the city of Matlosana have a history typical of many mining regions. In 1886 gold seekers filled the area like a mighty torrent after the discovery of this precious metal and due to the drunken and disorderly behavior and crime that resulted,the local magistrate asked the government to build a prison and to appoint a warden, guards and a matron to staff it. Locally known as Old Klerksdorp Prison, it was operated from 1891 to 1973. The decommissioned prison was converted to a museum by the City Council and opened to the public in January of 1977.
So that is what is old at the Museum. What’s new at the Museum?
The old pyrophyllite exhibit has (as of July 2016) been rebuilt to provide a larger and more modern exhibit for perhaps the most
famous individual items in the Museum’s entire collection: Klerksdorp Spheres found near Ottosdal at the “Wonderstone Mine”. Many millions of people who know nothing at all about Klerksdorp, or the pyrophyllite mining industry, have heard of these small, rare 2.6 billion year old pyrite and wollastonite concretions within pyrophyllite mined in the area. Over the last fifty years various enthusiasts of “alternate archaeology”have claimed these were artificial and not natural due to the concentric rings characteristic of many, and some other, mostly imaginary, properties. Scientists, most notably L. T. Nel, G.R. Bozzoli, H. Jacobs and J. T. Allen, have been studying these concretions since the 1930s and have had little reason to conclude that they are anything but natural. They do not, as the alternate archaeologists assert, occur only as individuals and they are also not as hard as or harder than steel. In fact, some are only 5.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Apatite and ordinary glass have a Mohs hardness of 5.5, and glass can scratch most of the spheres. Another easily disproved claim that has been made is that the spheres have a special high-tech ability to rotate in glass cases formerly constructed for them at the Museum. It is true that they have rotated, but it is also true that blasting operations are known to have occurred in nearby mines, setting off vibrations that definitely have the ability to move objects perched in a glass case.
These local “celebrities” are rare, however, not something readily obtainable for one’s own mineral collection (yes, I have tried unsuccessfully to find someone who sells them), and certainly worth seeing! There is also a fine exhibit of the industrial uses of pyrophyllite in historic and modern times. Another new addition at the Museum is the new paving at the attractively landscaped main entrance. Temporary traveling exhibits come throughout the year. Check the Facebook page for the Museum. https://www.facebook.com/klerksdorpmuseum/
The telephone number for the Museum has also been updated.The Museum hosts cultural tours to school and community groups by appointment. It is a wonderful way to experience the heritage and history of the City of Matlosana and the region. The Klerksdorp Museum is located at the corner of Margarieta Prinsloo and Lombaard Street. Telephone the staff at +27 18 487 8900.