Close this search box.
Close this search box.
Close this search box.

The Natural History Library

The Natural History Collections Library is a resource for the professional and scientific staff of the museums to support their scientific research, preparation for exhibitions and educational activities.

The Natural History Collections Library reflects the strengths of Iziko Museums’ collections and exhibitions, with particular emphasis on South African natural history.

The library’s collection is strong in the following subjects: anthropology, vertebrate and invertebrate taxonomy and zoology, earth and environmental sciences.

The Natural History Collections Library is a major natural history resource in South Africa. Our objectives are to conserve, acquire, retrieve and disseminate information to support the work of the museum staff and to make the collections available for the scientific and educational activities of organizations and individuals.

Although no earlier reference is known, it is likely a small collection of books was available to scientific staff from the South African Museum’s inception in 1855, for when the museum was re-established in 1855, the South African Literary and Scientific Institution transferred its collections of books to the museum. This formed the nucleus of what, from the very beginning, was styled the Library. From the beginning, too, the necessity to build the collection up by donations, purchase and exchange was realised by the trustees and curators. The library was primarily intended for use by the museum staff.

The Natural History Collections Library is the finest natural history library in South Africa. It holds significant volumes on the voyages and travels of Europeans during the 18th and 19th centuries, including those of the HMS Challenger and Discovery expeditions. Much of the wealth of the library lies in the holdings of long runs of scientific periodicals, many of which are not held anywhere else in South Africa. The library also has an important and valuable collection of rare books and journals.

Can the public borrow books from the Natural History Collections Library?

The library is an art collections library to the general public and only lends material to its staff, but we do lend through the Request Interlibrary Loan system to other libraries. So, if you would like to borrow material from the library collection, or get a copy of an article from one of our journals, see your local library, who can arrange the request on your behalf. The Natural History Collections Library charges the standard library rates for interlibrary loans and document delivery. All interlibrary loans and document delivery requests should be arranged through a library (either a local public or academic library), but check with your own library first to see if they provide this service and enquire what charges apply to do so.

Hours of the library

Temporarily closed


Iziko SA Museum
25 Queen Victoria Street
Cape Town 8000
South Africa

Contact details

Tel: +27(0)21 467 7207
Fax: +27(0)214813993

Close this search box.


Exhibitions & Events

Inside Iziko

Iziko Museums