Libraries and Museums

The Johannesburg Public Library, founded in 1889, has a wide network of branch libraries. Johannesburg has a diverse selection of museums and galleries. Established in the early twentieth century, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, in downtown Joubert Park, has South Africa's most extensive collection of paintings by the European Impressionists. In recent years representation of African artists has grown, and today its gardens are enhanced by the work of South African sculptors while local artists receive exposure in temporary exhibits. Commercial galleries, such as the Everard Read Gallery in Rosebank, also display a wide variety of works by African artists, ranging from landscapes to traditional tribal art.

Museum Africa, which dates back to the 1930s, has an outstanding section focusing on the history of Johannesburg, including such displays as reconstructed squatters' shacks and homemade weapons. The museum's other collections encompass geology, rock art, and the Bensusan Museum of Photography. Temporary exhibits are also displayed. The South African Transport Museum houses vintage steam engines and automobiles, ox wagons, and other items. Visitors to the South Africa Breweries Museum, in the Newtown district, explore the history of brewing, including the brewing of European ale and lager beer. The South Africa Museum of Military History displays weapons and war memorabilia dating back to the days of the Boer War (1899–1902). The Madiba Freedom Museum is dedicated to the life of national hero Nelson Mandela (b. 1918), affectionately nicknamed Madiba by his countrymen. Mandela's hero status is based on his position as a black nationalist leader, joint recipient of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, and South Africa's first black president (1994–99). The Workers' Museum, located in a converted compound that once housed utility employees, is a national monument. Other museums in the Johannesburg area specialize in Africana, banking, archaeology, Judaica, and costumes.