One of the oldest museums in the Southern hemisphere is receiving a multimillion rand upgrade. The Iziko South African Museum, which was opened in 1879, has received funding from the provincial department of arts and culture to create a bigger museum.The renovation and upgrade of the museum will facilitate greater access to the collections and enable Iziko to work towards becoming a world-class museum, explains museum CEO Rooksana Omar.Six storeys“The courtyard project consists of the construction of six storeys within the courtyard of the existing research building, adjacent to the UCT campus. When completed, this building will house the research collections, offices and laboratories, as well as give unique behind-the-scenes access to the public to view collections in storage, scientists and technical staff working on fossils and other specimens,” she says.The project aims to increase the storage space for the growing natural history and social history collections, improve visitor access to the research and collections with the aim of increasing public awareness and provide additional office and exhibition spaces for Iziko museums.The renovations are expected to be complete late next year.A report by the Central City Improvement District estimates the project to be worth R180m.Behind the scenesThe upgrade will allow Iziko to “lift the veil” on the daily activities behind the public exhibitions and share the full extent of its collections with visitors, Omar says.“Visitors can learn to better understand the constantly evolving universe we live in and marvel at the biological and cultural diversity of our planet. This will enable Iziko to engage in a more meaningful way with the public,” she says.The museum will remain open during the renovations, although some exhibitions and areas may be closed.“The work on site is scheduled in such a manner to minimise the impact on the visitor experience. Noise, dust and closed exhibition areas might be a slight temporary inconvenience, but once completed, the Iziko South African Museum will provide visitors with access to a world-class museum,” she says.