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The University of Zululand’s Physics Department applied to the University authorities for permission to open a Science Centre (“Exploratorium”) in the faculty of Science, at the end of 1982. Permission was granted and work begun early in 1983, with a donation from Old Mutual. The Unizul Science Centre (USC)was housed in an old laboratory on the top floor of the Zoology building. Prof. Johan van der Merwe of the Physics Department, with the assistance of other staff, ordered and built equipment for the Centre, which was opened on the 6th of November 1986. The Centre has been open continuously for the 25 years since then and was visited by about 3000 students annually whilst at the University. It comprised some 130 interactive exhibits.

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At the end of 1991 the head of the Physics Department applied to the Foundation for Research Development (now the NRF) for funding for a staff member for the Centre. This was granted, and from October 1992 to mid 1997, the Centre was run by the Physics Department and sponsored by the FRD. Since late 1997, the Centre has been run by the University with inputs from various other donors. As well as hosting visitors to the Centre, the project runs a number of outreach activities (detailed later in this document), many in cooperation with local (Richards Bay) industries.


In November 1995, USC was offered the use of a 1000 square metre industrial building in Alton, Richards Bay. Funds were raised from local industries for necessary renovations which took place from July 1996 to February 1997. The Science Centre, with all its exhibits, was moved to the new facility, and opened on the 27th of February 1997. The new facility has allowed for expansions in the programme, visitors and staff, being visited by over 30 000 learners annually.
There have been three expansions to this facility since then. In November 2004, a new 600 square metre building was opened, funded by the Department of Science and Technology. This provided 400 square metres of new exhibit space and a multi purpose classroom. In November 2006, a further extension comprising a 200-seater auditorium and TRAC-Lab was opened, with funding from BHP Billiton (building) and Murray and Roberts (TRAC-Lab). On 09 September 2011 USC made international history with the opening of the very first official children’s museum in Africa. Funding for this was made possible by BHP Billiton. The organisation TREE (Training and Resources in Early Education) has partnered with the USC and will be running ECD (early childhood development) programmes for children ages 3-7 as well as running training workshops for crèche facilitators.

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At present USC is 2600 sq metres, with a dedicated exhibit area of 1600 sq metres, a state of the art auditorium, a smaller theatre, TRAC lab and two classrooms. There is also a small outdoor exhibits area.