The Kimberley Mine Museum, also known as the Open-Air Mine Museum, is a place to visit if you want to experience the feel of yester-year's great diamond-rush, ballrooms, races, lotteries, and pubs that made up the Kimberley region. Situated next to the famous Big Hole, one can still feel the authenticity of the by-gone days here in this Open-Air Mine Museum which is built around the mines. It encompasses the historic buildings and cobbled streets of the old village which was resided by the daring miners.
At the museum, visitors can view the replica of the world’s biggest diamond, “The Cullinanâ€, as well as the first officially recorded diamond found in the country, “Eurekaâ€. One can also try their luck by digging in one of the diamond graves. Apart from this, visitors can enjoy the old pubs, visit the tobacconist Perilly’s cigarette shop, the former De-Beers homestead, The Transport Hall which contains an assortment of late 19-century vehicles, and De Beers Hall housing a display of uncut diamonds, stones of different colours and jewellery.
The Big Hole itself is fascinating. Mined to a depth of 215m, and with a surface area of about 17 hectares and a perimeter of about 1,6 km, it is the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. On 14 August 1914 work on the mine was stopped, by which time 22,5 million tons of earth had been excavated, yielding 2 722 kilograms of diamonds.
What to see?
- Underground Mine Experience: allows visitors to enter a recreated mine shaft to experience the frightening 19th century mining conditions.
- A 15-minute film about the story of the Kimberley diamonds.
- Exhibition Centre: photographs, archived material, and artefacts illustrating the story of the diamonds from past to present.
- The old jigging machines and grease tables designed to extract diamonds from the ore in the Pulsator building.
- The real diamond display housed in a vault, displaying the largest uncut octahedron in the world, the famous 616, that was named for its carat and size.
- New viewing platform to see the Big Hole from above.
- Old Town: period buildings preserved and restored to original glory. These include a church built in Europe and shipped to Kimberley, Barney Barnato’s Boxing Academy, the Digger’s Tavern, and authentic diggers’ sleeping quarters, and De Beers railway coach.