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The Medicine Chest


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  • A label in the Natural History Museum

    A label in the Natural History Museum accompanying a discovery made by Mary Anning.
  • Kimberley, South Africa: miners and washing gear at the Bultfontein diamond mine

  • Griqualand West, South Africa: Kimberley diamond mine.

  • Kimberley Mine

    A detail from the wallpaper used outside the Cape Town Diamond Museum in the V&A Waterfront.
  • Kimberley Mine 1886

    Plate from Williams, G. 1902. 'The Diamond Mines of South Africa: Some Account of their Rise and Development'. New York, London: Macmillan.
  • The Tralfamadorians

    In Kurt Vonnegut's 'Slaughterhouse-Five', the protagonist Billy, is abducted by aliens and taken to their planet, Tralfamadore. Throughout the novel, Billy imparts what he has learned from the Tralfamadorians, whilst there. In one instance, in a letter to a late night radio station, he writes about their views on time: "The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads in a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that someone is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is 'So it goes' " (Vonnegut 1969: 24 - 25).
  • Kimberlite

    A display outside the Cape Town Diamond Museum in the V&A Waterfront
  • Kimberlite

    Kimberlite specimens, UCT Mantle Room
  • Kimberlite

    Kimberlite specimen, UCT Mantle Room
  • The Diamond Mines of South Africa: Some Account of their Rise and Development.

    “In the mines operated by the De Beers Company alone, more than eleven thousand African natives are employed below and above ground, coming from the Transvaal, Basutoland, and Bechuanaland, from districts far north of the Limpopo and the Zambesi, and from the Cape Colony on the east and the south to meet the swarms flocking from Delagoa Bay and countries along the coast of the Indian Ocean, while a few cross the continent from Damaraland and Namaqualand, and the coast washed by the Atlantic. The larger number are roughly classed as Basutos, Shanganes, M'umbanes, and Zulus, but there are many Batlapins from Bechuanaland, Amafengu, and a sprinkling of nearly every other tribe in South Africa” (Williams 1902: 412-413). ​
  • The Diamond Mines of South Africa: Some Account of their Rise and Development.

    “The initial impetus for establishing a collection of mantle materials for research purposes in South Africa was provided by Gardner Williams and his son Alpheus Williams in the late 19th and early 20th century. These two American mining engineers shared a great interest in the mining methods and geology of the South African kimberlite-hosted diamond mines they were supervising. Each wrote books on the subject and the two men assembled a collection of scientifically interesting rock samples and minerals from the mines. Subsequent to the death of Alpheus Williams, the Williams family donated this collection to the Geology Department at UCT for teaching and research purposes” (Department of Geological Sciences 2021).
  • The South African College

    “UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College, a high school for boys. ​ The College had a small tertiary-education facility that grew substantially after 1880, when the discovery of gold and diamonds in the north – and the resulting demand for skills in mining – gave it the financial boost it needed to grow. ​ The College developed into a fully fledged university during the period 1880 to 1900, thanks to increased funding from private sources and the government. ​ During these years, the College built its first dedicated science laboratories, and started the departments of mineralogy and geology to meet the need for skilled personnel in the country's emerging diamond and gold-mining industries” (University of Cape Town 2021).
  • Looking down

    Educational graphs spotted en route down to the Mantle Room, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Cape Town. Situated in the bowels of the Leslie Social Sciences Building on upper campus, the Mantle Room "houses a collection of upper mantle-derived materials (mantle xenoliths and xenocrysts, kimberlites and related rocks and megacrysts, as well as deep crystal xenoliths) that is most likely the largest of its kind. The collection was assembled over the past 50 years and has been and continues to be an invaluable and irreplaceable resource for mantle research. Informally named the “Mantle Room” collection, it is maintained under the auspices of the Department of Geological Sciences”(Department of Geological Sciences 2021).
  • End papers of 'What to Observe'

    Published in 1841, Jackson’s guide was the first of a series of guides published during this period which offered notes for the traveller on appropriate conduct in the field – from providing methods for training the eye to observe what was deemed as relevant details, to instructions on which precision instruments should be carried and how to use them to record and inscribe the results of observations made (Withers 2013: 170). As Jackson states, his guide pointed out to the “uninitiated Traveller what he [sic] should observe, and to remind the one who is well informed, of many objects which (…) might escape him” (Jackson 1841: i).
  • Burrowing

    Extract from 'A Child in Time': "Later, in the sorry months and years, Stephen was to make efforts to re-enter this moment, to burrow his way back through the folds between the events, crawl between the covers, and reverse his decision. But time – not necessarily as it is, for who knows that, but as thought constituted it – monomanically forbids second chances" (McEwan 1987: 14).
  • A1.21-A1.21.1

    An object from BC666: Walter Floyd's physiology notes from when he was a student.
  • Mary Anning

    Henry De la Beche's portrait of Mary Anning, the English fossil collector, dealer, and palaeontologist who became known around the world for finds she made in the cliffs along the English Channel at Lyme Regis. These cliffs consisted of alternating layers of limestone and shale, laid down as sediment on a shallow seabed early in the Jurassic period (about 210 - 195 million years ago). ​As a woman, Anning was treated as an outsider to the scientific community. The increasingly influential Geological Society of London did not allow women to become members, or even to attend meetings as guests.
  • Timekeeper

    Installation view of a hole revealing all painting of successive exhibition layers, 20 cm in diameter at the Viennese Secession
  • L’Ellipse

    In the triple–screen projection 'L’Ellipse' (1998), Pierre Huyghe slowed a jump cut from Wim Wenders’s 1977 film 'The American Friend' and expanded it by adding his own footage of the film’s leading man, Bruno Ganz, now older, acting out a scene that the film itself skips – a walk across a city, from one apartment to another, between important phone calls.
  • Holes

    The landscape of the Karoo and the Northern Cape – the land of the |xam – is rich with holes in the ground. Below the surface of the earth burrowing animals navigate their way through the roots of grasses and shrubs, small trees and creepers. Holes are made and inhabited by scorpions and spiders, mice and shrews, suricats and mongooses. One of the most energetic of burrowers is the anteater whose holes, in places, transform the landscape. Anteaters are such active diggers and their holes so numerous that abandoned burrows are quickly occupied by bat-eared foxes, hyenas, hares, civets, bats, jackals, owls and porcupines (Skotnes 2010: 26)
  • Intersections

    "In recent years, particular interest has been directed at the resulting cross-pollinations and hybridities in the treatment of illness and disease that developed during the colonial and precolonial period from this heterogenous mix of cultures. Karen Flint’s 'Healing Traditions' (2008) and Digby’s 'Diversity and Division in Medicine' (2006) suggest that a complex structure of complementarity existed in which overlapping forms of health care had permeable and shifting boundaries (Digby 2006: 33; Flint 2008:7) illustrated perhaps most succinctly in the particularly porous field of botanical medicine, which almost all cultures utilised in their treatments to some extent" (Liebenberg 2021: x).
  • Wounds

    A wounded bottle in Special Collections, BC666, UCT
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