The Rhodesia Museum

The Rhodesia Museum


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 Association 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.

To support the museum, the Government of Southern Rhodesia contributed to maintenance an annual grant equal in amount to the subscriptions guaranteed by the founding bodies and an annual contribution from the Bulawayo Municipality. 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 Southern Rhodesia.



  • James Gavin