Johannesburg

#LifeAfterLockdown – What's happening at Joburg's museums?

19 Apr 2021
On March 26, 2020 South Africa entered its first lockdown and across the country (alongside almost everything else), South Africa's museums temporarily closed. Some are operating again, but many still have not reopened... As of February 2021, South Africa is in a 'Level 1 lockdown', meaning social and cultural spaces such as theatres, cinemas, museums and galleries are allowed to open to the public. 

To help you navigate the complicated and confusing status of Joburg's museums after lockdown, here's a look at major Joburg museums, and their current state of openness.

* This article was first published in April 2021. We will update as we receive new information. 

Joburg museums that are open

Constitution Hill
Status: Open
The museums of the national heritage landmark Constitution Hill reopened to the public on October 1, 2020. Like many other museums, Constitution Hill encourages visitors to book their tickets online in advance. Tickets still include an optional guided tour, or you can also download the free app and guide yourself around the site with a free audio guide on your phone. Excitingly during the last few months, Constitution Hill has also been hard at work developing Creative Uprising, a new creative hub that is revitalising and transforming unused spaces in the precinct, into collaborative spaces for local creatives. We recently took a tour of the Creative Uprising, read all about this ambitious new development here.

Where: Cnr Joubert St and Kotze St, Braamfontein, tel. +27 11 381 3100. Open daily 09:00-16:00.
Tickets: Buy your tickets online at constitutionhill.org.za

 
Tour of the isolation cells at the Number Four prison museum, Constitution Hill

Ditsong National Museum of Military History
Status: Open
Part of the state-managed Ditsong group of museums (all other Ditsong museums are located in Tshwane), this museum devoted to South Africa's military history reopened to the public on September 1, 2020. During the lockdown Ditsong museums also worked on upgrading their website and you can now buy tickets online.

Where:  22 Erlswold Way, Saxonwold, tel. +27 11 646 5513. Open daily 09:00-16:30
Tickets: Buy your tickets online at ditsong.org.za.


Hector Pieterson Museum
Status: Open
This excellent museum in Orlando West, Soweto tells in great detail the story of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, from the events which led up to the student's protests to its violent crackdown. The museum is operated by the City of Joburg and closed in March, 2020 in light of the pandemic. On April 19, 2021 it was announced that the museum is reopening, now open 10:00-17:00, closed Sundays.

Origins Centre Museum
Status: Open
Origins Centre is a museum devoted to the story of the evolution of modern humanity, tracing the emergence of humans along an 80 000-year path to the ancient African source. Part of the Wits University campus in Braamfontein, when the university closed and moved to remote learning in 2020, the Origins Centre followed suit and closed its doors. In February 2021 the Wits campus reopened to students and on April 9, 2021 the Origins museum reopened to the public. Entrance tickets must be booked in advance online and pre-bookings for guided tours are essential.

Where: Wits University campus, cnr Yale Rd and Enoch Sontonga Ave, Braamfontein, tel. +27 11 717 4700, wits.ac.za/origins/. Open 09:00-17:00, Sat 09:00-16:00. Closed Sun. 
Tickets: Book a museum tour at bookings.origins@wits.ac.za. Book your entrance tickets here via webtickets.

 
Fossils at Origins Centre

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre
Status: Open
This popular children's museum in Newtown reopened to the public on August 25, 2020. Most of the hands-on exhibits are open, although there is a limit on how many children may interact with an exhibit at any one time. The museum has also introduced some new exhibits since the lockdown, including a new mirror maze, and taken 25% off the entrance prices for adults (R60) and kids (R40).

Where: Cnr Miriam Makeba St and Helen Joseph St, Newtown, tel. +27 11 639 8400, sci-bono.co.za. Open daily 09:00-16:30.
Tickets: Entrance tickets can be bought at the museum.


Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre
Status: Open
This museum and centre of memory and dialogue is the first institution of its kind that brings together the stories of the holocaust committed by Nazi Germany in World War II Europe and the more recent Rwandan genocide in 1994. The museum reopened to the public in September 2020 and visits are now by appointment only (entrance is free).

Where: 1 Duncombe Rd, Forest Town, tel. +27 11 640 3100, jhbholocaust.co.za.
Tickets: Visits by appointment only, call  +27 11 640 3100 to arrange a visit. Entrance is free.

 
Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre

Maropeng and Sterkfontein Caves
Status: Open
The Maropeng visitor's centre in the Cradle of Humankind is open to the public and since December, 2021 now opens only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tours of the nearby Sterkfontein Caves also operate on the same days. Tickets must be booked online in advance.

Where: R400 just off the R563 to Hekpoort (approx 30mins drive from Sandton), tel. +27 14 577 9000,
Tickets: Buy your tickets online at maropeng.co.za


Mandela House Museum
Status: Open
This famous house museum on Vilakazi Street in Soweto saw itself thrust into the headlines in late 2020 with reports flying that the museum was facing imminent closure and liquidation. The museum is not being closed, and neither are the items within it being sold by liquidators. Instead, a new Trust will take over management of the property and continue to operate the site as a museum for the public good. The museum continues to open daily to the public. Entrance costs R60.

Where: 8115 Vilakazi St, Orlando West, Soweto, tel. +27 11 936 7754, mandelahouse.com. Open daily 09:00–16:45.
 
Inside the Lindfield House Musuem

Lindfield Victorian House Museum
Status: Open
One of Joburg's quirkiest museums, this historic home in Auckland Park brings to life the Victorian era through hundreds of period items spread over a collection of remarkably decorated rooms. In November 2020 the museum announced, like many other privately owned and managed heritage sites, that it was in "an extremely precarious financial position" and has been actively crowdfunding to raise funds to pay for utility bills. The museum is open and fully operational (visits are by appointment and include a tour) and on Sundays there is now a weekly market in the Lindfield House gardens. During the weekly Sunday market tours of the museum take place at 11:00, 12:30 and 14:00 and do not need to be booked in advance.

Where: 72 Richmond Ave, Auckland Park, tel. +27 11 726 2932, lindfield.wix.com/museum
Tickets: Tours of the house are by appointment only. Call +27 11 726 2932 or +27 83 589 8668 to book a tour or turn up for one of their Sunday tours during the market day. Tours cost R100. 


Wits Art Museum
Status: Open 

Home to an extraordinary collection of African art, including contemporary and historical art from across the continent, WAM has a dynamic programme of temporary exhibitions that showcase different works from their immense permanent collection. As with Origins the museums is part of Wits University and reopened in March 2021. There are restrictions on how many people can access the museum, so booking is essential.

Where: Cnr Jan Smuts Ave and Jorissen St, Braamfontein, tel. +27 11 717 1358, wits.ac.za/wam.
Tickets: Entrance is free but booking is essential. Call +27 11 717 1358 or +27 11 717 1365 or email info.wam@wits.ac.za and send a text to *120*3622# to receive your entrance screening form.
​​​​​​

Joburg museums that are currently closed

Apartheid Museum
Status: Closed
One of Joburg's biggest museums, the Apartheid Museum reopened to the public after eight months on December 1, 2020. Unfortunately on March 1, 2021 the museum announced it would be temporarily closing again until further notice. According to a report by The Times, the museum, a public benefit not-for-profit company, could not afford to operate with a drastic reduction in the number of daily paying visitors (which usually had included a high daily number of international tourists). A hesitant date of September 2021 has been set for a reopening, although this is dependent on the ability to secure extra funding to support operations.
 
Entrance to Apartheid Museum. Photo by Subodh Agnihotri / Shutterstock 

Liliesleaf
Status: Closed
One of Joburg's finest museums, Liliesleaf in Rivonia tells the story of the Treason Trial (that led Mandela and his comrades to Robben Island) and the activities of the underground resistance movement who had their headquarters at this suburban farm. Unfortunately the museum, also run as a non-profit entity, never fully reopened after lockdown and is now in major financial distress with no funding to pay salaries or carry out maintenance. The museum is now encouraging the public to support the museum and help ensure the site's survival through a crowdfunding campaign. You can donate to their crowdfunding campaign here.
 
The grand halls of Johannesburg Art Gallery

Johannesburg Art Gallery
Status: Closed
One of the biggest public collections of art in Africa, the Johannesburg Art Gallery has faced a variety of difficulties long before the coronavirus pandemic arrived, and briefly closed in 2017 due to problems with rain damage from a leaking roof. On March 26, 2020 the gallery announced that it would be temporarily closing until further notice. Managed by the City of Joburg, the reasons for the gallery's continued closure remain unclear, although we were informed the closure is linked to the city's Community Development department not having enough capacity to open all of Joburg's public sites (such as libraries, parks, community centres etc). We continue to wait impatiently for this landmark institution to reopen. 

James Hall Museum of Transport
Status: Closed
The largest transport museum in Africa, this impressive collection of vintage motors has been closed to the public since March 2020. Also managed by the City of Joburg, again staff answer phones although there is no indication of when this museum will reopen. Some staff have been told that they may not talk to media, leading us to an information dead end. This museum was a stop on the hop-on hop-off City Sightseeing red bus tour (now operating weekly on Saturdays), although with the museum closed the bus does not stop here anymore and instead continues onwards to Gold Reef City theme park.

Museum Africa
Status: Closed
Another City of Joburg managed museum that has not fared well of late. In November 2020 Museum Africa was broken into by thieves who damaged pipes during their attempted robbery. The resulting flooding destroyed the new high-tech Museum of Hip Hop which was being installed at the site.

Again it is unclear why this museum has never reopened since the lockdown and it remains especially difficult to obtain information about the site, as Museum Africa has no website or social media channels. According to activist Flo Bird from the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation speaking to The Star newspaper, some officials have said the museum is closed due to a lack of protective personal equipment (PPE), with another unusual reason being the 'need to decontaminate the building'.... after 13 months of lockdown. Other persistent rumours suggest the city is trying to 'cut costs' by keeping the museum closed. What happens in the future remains to be seen, we watch and wait.

* We should state that it is with some frustration that we have tried to get up to date information from City of Joburg officials about the state of city-run museums. We were told that no museum employee is allowed to talk to media and that we should speak to the Deputy Director of Museums. We are still awaiting a response to our email from March 17, 2021.

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