When the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (OVI) commemorated its first centenary in 2008, the History Committee of the SA Veterinary Association (SAVA) decided to renovate and expand a small in-house museum to serve as a national institution open to the public.
It is now housed in a historic building, which was originally designed as a hostel for unmarried staff when the OVI was founded in 1908. At present the museum consists of 6 rooms made available for this purpose by the institute. The main exhibition in two large rooms illustrates the development of veterinary science through the ages, from the first references to animal diseases in the 5th century B.C. to modern times.
The history of veterinary science in South Africa is dealt with in greater detail, starting with the role of ethno-veterinary medicines used by the ancient Khoi-San inhabitants of the country, followed by the early colonial history and featuring the early veterinarians including HB Wiltshire, WC Branford, Duncan Hutcheon, H Watkins-Pitchford and J Soga, the first South African to qualify as a veterinarian in 1886. This is followed by more recent developments such as the establishment of the OVI in 1908, the Faculty of Veterinary Science of the University of Pretoria in 1920 and the SAVA in 1920.
Two rooms are dedicated to the founder of the OVI, Sir Arnold Theiler. The main exhibition is a reconstruction of his office, featuring his original desk and furniture, including his telephone and notebooks with hand-written experimental data. An ante-room contains a time-line summary of his career and an exhibition of the medals he received from various countries in recognition of his important contributions to science.
Finally, the last two rooms represent a laboratory in Theiler’s time and an early veterinary consulting room.