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Unsung Heroes and the art of building a museum collection: Q&A with DITSONG’S Lazarus Kgasi

The building up and maintaining of a museum collection requires a great deal of knowledge, skill, and passion. Constant research and field work are also necessary for the successful curation of a collection or exhibit. Then there are the vital roles played by the many technicians and collection attendants who assist in collecting specimens, and are responsible for their preparation and contributing to their long-term care. In an effort to pay tribute to the staff who have largely not received public recognition, The DITSONG National Museum of Natural History is exhibiting Unsung Heroes.

We spoke with Lazarus Kgasi, Junior Curator in the museum’s Palaeontology Section and Palaeo-Research Institute research associate, to find out more about the Unsung Heroes exhibition, what it takes to build a museum collection, and what they’re doing to inspire a new generation of museum-goers and lovers of natural history. 

Lazaras Khasi DITSONG curator
As Junior Curator in the Palaeontology Section, Lazarus Kgasi’s work sees him going out to the field, collecting fossils, and identifying them. PHOTO courtesy of DITSONG National Museum of Natural History

Creative Feel: First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at the DITSONG National Museum of Natural History?
Lazarus Kgasi:
My name is Lazarus Kgasi from Cosmo City, Randburg. I love reading history books as they prepare us for the future. I’m also a very curious person, so I love shows such as National Geographic, and collecting fossils. I’m a Junior Curator in the Palaeontology Section here at the Museum; a Palaeo-Research Institute research associate, and a Bolt’s Farm co-permit holder. My job entails going out to the field, collecting fossils and identifying them. This compliments my personality since I am curious by nature.  

CF: What kind of story is being told by the Unsung Heroes exhibition?
LK: This exhibition displays people behind the scenes, so to speak. Everyone knows about the researchers, but nothing on technicians. This exhibition highlights the importance of technicians; they are usually the first people to see the fossils from the ground, and identify them. Therefore, even though they don’t have formal qualifications, they are researchers as they know a whole lot more about the collection.

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