27 June 2011

Generous donation to the Selmar Schonland Herbarium

The Selmar Schonland is once again humbled by the generosity of the Skae family. After hearing of our financial woes Russell Skae has made a personal donation of R2 500 to the herbarium towards renovating our faulty fluorescent light fittings. Russell went to school at Kingswood and studied at Rhodes Univeristy and now lives with his family in The Netherlands. He became aware of our plight when his mother Jo, a volunteer in the herbarium (sse post below, 31 May 2011), told him how she mounts plant specimens in the dark on cloudy days.
Many thanks Russell!

16 June 2011

University of Fort Hare students use the herbarium

On Tuesday 14th of June Dr Lisa Buwa, from the University of Fort Hare Botany Department, visited the Selmar Schonland Herbarium with 7 of her Honours students. The visit was a hands-on practical to introduce the students to the functions and value of a herbarium collection. Each student had collected, pressed and dried a specimen to be assessed for its value as a voucher specimen. Fort Hare students, staff and researchers have come to rely on the Schonland Herbarium for plant identifications and botanical information and have now included a day visit to the herbarium as part of their botany honours course. While Pumlani Cimi showed the students how to use the herbarium and handle specimens correctly Mr Dold identified their specimens as well as Dr Buwa's specimens for her research project.

08 June 2011

Putting Museum fire off

By: Zongezile Matshoba

The newly formed Health and Safety Committee at Albany Museum started on high gear when it organised an eye-opening briefing by the Makana Municipality Fire Department.

An excited fire expert, Robert Brooks said he could now breathe a sigh of relief as it was only Albany Museum that he has not served throughout his 27 years in the field.

He started by outlining what he called the four Golden Rules that must be followed in the event of a fire. He advised that:

1. The alarm must be rung
2. The fire department be notified
3. Staff registers must be collect by those in charge
4. An evacuation plan must be followed. Highlights of the plan should include:-
* Closing windows and doors
* Turning off all electrical equipment
* Using existing fire extinguishers to put out small if and when necessary

Surprisingly, no one seems to know the emergency Fire Department number - 046-6224444, when Brooks asked for it. The audience gave the South African Police Service (SAPS) emergency, 10 111 number instead.

Getting into the main business, Brooks explained how the fire works. He drew up what he called a triangle of combustion. He said that a fire needs three things to burn: oxygen, heat and fuel. Putting out any of the three makes it very difficult for the fire to spread further. He then categorised fuel into A - Combustibles, e.g. wood, paper, textiles; B - Flammable liquids e.g. petrol, paraffin, diesel, ethanol, oil, grease, benzene; and C - Electricity and electrical equipment.

Following that was the more interesting part, and one that seem to concern everybody, especially the researchers who seemed concerned of losing valuable collections gathered over a number of years. Everyone wanted to know how to put out the fire to save the building, collections and jobs.

He advised that, for Category A - water must be used; for Category B - the dry chemical fire extinguisher must be used; and for Category C - the carbon dioxide fire extinguisher which has a big black nozzle must be used.

He also highlighted the importance of reducing oxygen whenever there is a fire as it helps the fire to burn. This could be done by closing all doors and windows, and using the fire blanket and sand which must always be kept in a bucket. He also warned of using water to reduce heat, as water is also a good conductor of heat.

He said, "To get rid of heat use water, but you cannot use water on electrical fires or flammable liquid fire".

Fire causes panic and havoc. Thinking of dying in fire and smoke make people to scramble for exit at all costs, resulting in some tripping and falling, while others succumb to smoke inhalation.

Brooks advised that all escape routes and alternatives during emergency must be clearly marked and unblocked. This must cater not only for staff, but also for the huge amount of different visitors to the museum, including children and people with physical challenges. Once everyone has been evacuated, it is very important to assemble them in one point to check if everyone is safe.

Albany Museum which was once gutted by fire in 1941, destroying some of the exhibitions in the Albany Natural Science Museum building, seems to be safer from now onwards.

Following this informative and educational session, Brooks to the staff outside to demonstrate how to use a fire extinguisher to put out a fire.

He also encouraged staff members to enroll for a fire elementary course.

03 June 2011

Book on Pollen wasps and flowers in southern Africa released

The book Pollen wasps and flowers in southern Africa by Sarah Gess and
Friedrich Gess, published in the SANBI Biodiversity Series, is now
obtainable at R160 per copy from the SANBI Bookshop , Private Bag X101, Pretoria, 0001 South Africa.

Interested parties may contact SANBI at +27(12) 843 5000, or
e-mail: bookshop@sanbi.org.za.

For more about SANBI, please visit their website.

For related links, please visit:
Pollen wasps and flowers in Southern Africa

02 June 2011

Government considering a National Policy Framework for Museums

By: Zongezile Matshoba

A Panel of Experts, including Bongani Mgijima of Albany Museum in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, has been set up by Minister Paul Mashatile of the National Department of Arts and Culture (DAC). Their briefing is to develop and provide a comprehensive policy framework for the management of museums in South Africa.

DAC is mostly concerned with the lack of authoritative and clear museum policy guidelines in South Africa. The museums are still seen as national in name only, rather than in status, in the sense that neither their collections nor the services they render could be described as national.

Museums continue to constitute an invaluable resource in terms of the collections they hold in trust for the nation, a reserve of intellectual capital, and an investment in capacity and expertise. And, their nature as social institutions and the role that they play in defining, shaping and representing the nation, strengthening social cohesion or entrenching social divisions has not sufficiently been explored in South Africa.

The Panel of Experts have to look at a clear definition of a national museum, and a grading criteria to explicitly define museums of national, provincial and local importance. It is said this will be different from the longest established grading system, that of the hospitality sector, which is valid for 12 months.

They will also look at norms and standards that will address all museological aspects of museums, especially the conservation of collections, research and interpretation of collections, education and public displays, aligned to the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and South African Museums Association (SAMA) Code of Ethics and Standards.

The grading will also be a basis for funding museums. At present, DAC is very concerned as there seems to be little, if any, correlation between the cultural significance of the museum and the funding that it receives from government.

The team has at least 16 terms of reference to consider. These deliberations should be completed within the next eight months, or the end of the 2010/2011 financial year.

For further reading on this new development, please read: