Tag Archives: planetarium

Dinosaurs and Whales at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town (2017-08-20) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 14 SEP 2018

I pretend that any visit to a museum is for the benefit of my girls of course, but obviously that is very much a straight up lie – It is for me. Pretty much always. Case in point, I really really  wanted to see what the Iziko South African Museum, the national museum of South Africa, looks like nowadays. So off on a family outing we went.

Actually, given its location at the top of the Company’s Garden in Cape Town (where it has been located since 1897), a trip to the Iziko South African Museum always makes for a good family outing. You have the greenery, squirrels and nice eatery that comes with the Company’s Garden, the splendour of the various statues and memorials dotted about, the entertainment value that comes from a viewing at the now very impressive planetarium, and of course the wonder of the museum itself.

Founded by Lord Charles Somerset in 1825, the South African Museum started out as a general museum but later moved its focus to almost purely that of natural history, with a notion that very little divides the animal world from the human subjects it documents. In other words, there is a reason that there is relatively so little cultural history and material culture on display, despite this being a national museum!

The museum is organized on four levels, hosting a variety of exhibitions, from rock art to fossils, marine animals and meteorites. The ground level is home to “People past to present”, looking at aspects Southern African tribal history, “Karoo Fossils”, examining ancient dinosaur-like life in the Karoo region 250 million years ago, “World of Water”, depicting life in South Africa’s oceans, “Southern Oceans”, detailing animal life in the Subantarctic region, and the “Whale Well”, which features a unique collection of whale casts and skeletons – including a 20.5 meter long suspended blue whale skeleton that can be viewed from all floors.

(If there is one thing that I CAN remember as a kid going on all the museum bound school excursions, then it is most definitely that huge whale skeleton!)

Level 1 is home to “Sharkworld”, showcasing sharks, skates, rays and chimeras, “Our Place in the Universe”, a display depicting a cosmic zoom to view the universe on an ever-increasing scale, reaching back to almost the very beginning of the universe, “Meteorites”, three large iron meteorites, and of course the fantastic “Iziko Planetarium” (which I now really want to return to in order to watch an actual adult space themed feature following our viewing of the kiddy friendly “Tycho to the Moon”).

Level 2 showcases “Mammals”, “Birds”, “Wonders of Nature”, as well as the “History of the SA Museum”. It also houses a section entitled “Indigenous Knowledge”, which is a window on indigenous ways of using natural resources. Finally, level 3 is home to the “Stone Bones of the ancient Karoo” and focuses on the 250 million year old fossils from the Karoo. In other words, dinosaurs!

The museum is neat and tidy, the displays well looked after, the layouts great, and honestly put, I rather enjoyed the time strolling about. That said, the girls didn’t last very long before the “ugh, my legs are tired” moaning began, meaning that inevitably the visit was cut shorter than what it needed to be, ending with a grumpy dad stomping along in tow.

Next time I am going to lose the girls in the gardens with the squirrels I think.

P.S. That photo in the gallery above of Jessica running towards me? That’s her rushing over to tell me that a flock of the garden’s famous pigeons had just flown overhead and one of them had pooed on her leg! Extremely amusing and in the end, nothing that a bite to eat and some play time over at Deer Park Cafe couldn’t fix…

Related Link: Iziko South African Museum | The Company’s Garden | Cape Town

Tycho to the Moon at the Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome in Cape Town (2017-08-20) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 OCT 2017

The Iziko Museums of Cape Town (Iziko is isiXhosa for “hearth”) is an amalgamation of 12 national museums located near the Cape Town city centre. The Natural History sphere consists of the venerable Iziko South African Museum (founded in 1825) and, most pertinent to this particular blog post, the Iziko Planetarium, a project technically launched in the late 1950s, but which only became relevant to the public after the 1987 installation of the Planetarium’s star machine.

Built as an extension to the aforementioned Iziko South African Museum, the Planetarium is a familiar fixture for any of Cape Town’s former schoolkids – I’m not aware of any scholar that didn’t experience an school outing to the planetarium at least once during their school career!

Of course, as it inevitable does, technical equipment becomes outdated, and as such, after investments totaling R28,5 million were poured into the upgrade project, May 2017 saw the reopening of the new Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome (the planetarium’s new, official moniker), now extensively updated and most important of all, featuring cutting edge fulldome digital technology.

The result is beyond spectacular. The new Planetarium is now what is known as a “world-class digital fulldome theatre”, allowing for multimedia image projection and data visualisation on a scale not previously seen in Africa.

Apart from now being able to present interactive teaching and visual learning across multiple disciplines (essentially, there is now no reason that the Planetarium is solely focused on the field of astronomy), the biggest takeaway for this state of art digital dome is the fact that the Planetarium is now also very much an scientific instrument – capable of crunching and displaying complex and important data visualizations, exactly like those produced by the exciting SKA (Square Kilometre Array) project for example!

That said, I have a 3 year old and 6 year old daughter – meaning that our first experience of this glorious new piece of technology was a viewing of Tycho to the Moon – a supposedly educational, Australian produced 21 minute long feature about a dog and his kids that travel to the moon.

Spoiler, while the girls did enjoy the experience as a whole, Tycho to the Moon itself isn’t very good and kids seem to get bored of it VERY quickly.

The adverts for the other science show offerings, not to mention the star/universe gazing segment tacked on by our operator at the end of the show, were on the other hand ENTHRALLING – so definitely a return trip to the Planetarium for both Chantelle and myself is now VERY much in order!

Given the fact that the planetarium stands as part of the museum, with the Company’s Garden right on its doorstep, there is no way that this shouldn’t be on your list of things to do with kids in Cape Town.

Related Link: Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome | Iziko Museums of Cape Town