King William’s Town Amathole Museum

Huberta, a hippopotamus, embarked on a 1 600 kilometer journey from the St. Lucia Estuary in 1928. She slowly made her way to the Eastern Cape, which took her three years, becoming quite a celebrity in the country, with thousands of fans cheering her on. She never caused any trouble and was declared a protected animal. This unfortunately did not stop hunters from killing her, and they were arrested and fined after a huge public outcry in 1931. Huberta’s remains were sent to a London taxidermist and on her arrival back to South Africa, almost twenty thousand people were waiting for her. Her home is now in the King William’s Town Amathole Museum.

The Amathole Museum is one of the six oldest museums in South Africa, being established by the King William’s Town Natural History Society in 1884. As museums of the day were required to have taxidermists and a large array of specimens, a former soldier by the name of Captian Guy Shortridge joined the team of the then known Kaffrarian Museum in 1920, and his expeditions to find specimens became legendary. He even brought home a giraffe and more than one thousand five hundred specimens from Namibia in just one trip. He also played a crucial role in securing Huberta the Hippo for the museum. Today, through the efforts of people such as Captain Shortridge, the museum, renamed the Amathole Museum in 1999, has a collection of forty thousand mammals. It also has exhibits of documents, photographs and artifacts that bring life of the settlers of the 1800s to reality, as well as the history and culture of the Xhosa people.

The Amathole Museum also boasts a section dedicated to toys from as far back as 1882, dolls from the 1900s that were created by the Xhosa tribes and even more modern toys such as the first Barbie dolls to hit the market and a toy cellular phone. The museum is diverse in its exhibits and has an amazing collection for visitors to explore. Visitors wanting to look even further into the history of the exhibits are invited to make use of the museum’s library, which also contains a magnificent collection of literary works.