The National Pharmacy Museum was decided upon by the PSSA National Executive in 1950 and two members of the executive, Bennet Jacobson and Aaron Kramer, were appointed to collate the collection. A room was allocated in the Society’s offices in Braamfontein.

Professor Chris Price was appointed curator. Travelling to Johannesburg became a problem and A. H. Bridge, who was head of the School of Pharmacy, took over as the curator and became involved in building up the collection. He also found that he could not devote the necessary time and resigned in 1957.

In 1958 Julius Israelsohn was appointed to take over the museum with the aim of increasing the collection. Over a period of almost 40 years Julius built up a large collection of pharmacy artefacts which reflect the history of pharmacy in South Africa from the early 1800’s. This includes a library of some 1000 books such as Pharmacopoeia, British Pharmacopoeia Codex’s, Martindales, formularies and text books. Some go back as far the 1600’s. He also started the Fragrance Museum and collected over 900 specimens of plant material used by Traditional Healers in South Africa.

In 1997 the PSSA Head Office moved to Pretoria and the National Executive decided that they did not have the finance or the space to accommodate the Museum.

The Southern Gauteng Branch of the PSSA was erecting a new building at 52 Glenhove Road and undertook to provide the space and the finance for an expanded museum. The collection was packed into cartons and given to the Africana Museum on loan till the new building was ready. On completion of the building some 200 square meters of space was allocated to the Museum and the Branch provided the finance for the display cases which currently house the museum, the library and the fragrance collection.

Over the years many of the artefacts, early equipment used in industry, old medicines and books have been donated. The museum now has over 1000 items, excluding the library and the collection in the fragrance display. The vast majority of the items have been donated by pharmacists or their families.

Julius also collected a range of registration certificates of early pharmacists in the Cape, Natal, Free State and Transvaal. They date back to early 1800’s.

There is a unique collection of old prescription books also dating back to the 1800’s. For example, two of the ‘scripts dated 12th September 1897 are for President Paul Kruger and his wife.

The museum was closed for a few years after Julius passed away.

In 2009 Raymond Pogir was appointed curator.

The Branch requested that the displays be re-organised to follow a logical sequence to demonstrate the use of the historic equipment for tours of students and members of the public.  This has facilitated a popular tour for 1st and final year pharmacy students from Wits Pharmacy School, Pharmacy students from the Botswana Health Science University and a number of smaller tours by groups from interested organisations and individuals.

In addition to live tours, Raymond has developed digital presentations, using photographs of the museum artefacts, highlighting the history of the profession from the time before the advent of the current pharmaceutical factories.  Yet another valuable resource of this amazing heritage.

Many articles, authored by Raymond Pogir, have been written describing the history and use of artefacts in the museum.  Raymond has also contributed many  articles to the Branch Newsletter – The Golden Mortar.

The history of the use of medicine is as long as that of mankind itself. It would be impossible to present a full collection of the numerous formularies, plants, artefacts and other medicinal preparations in a museum of this size.

In this museum we have assembled a collection of over 1000 examples of such materials, artefacts, formularies and prescriptions which trace the development of medicines and the equipment used in medicine preparation over approximately the last few centuries.

Before the development of industrial pharmacy, pharmacists produced the basic ingredients to be used in dispensing the doctors prescriptions, or making their own medicines, from plant material.

The museum has a wide range of the original raw plant materials which are officially known as Pharmacognosy specimens.

Pharmacognosy being the science of the study of plants used to produce medicine.

We also have many examples of the equipment which the pharmacies in by-gone days needed in order to prepare the pills, cachets, own formularies, suppositories, powders, mixtures, ointments and other preparations which were either prescribed by doctors, were official formularies or made by the pharmacists from their own formularies.

The practical training required in order to acquire the manipulative skills needed to use the equipment and to produce elegant medicinal preparations were provided during official apprenticeships in pharmacies and attendance at Pharmacy Schools which were situated in various Technical Colleges.

The South African Pharmacy Board set the syllabus and conducted the external examinations. It was the only body with the statutory authority to register pharmacists. The qualification was registered as the Diploma in Pharmacy (Dip. Pharm) as the Pharmacy Board was not a University which could award any degrees.

Pharmacy Schools are now situated in the main Universities in South Africa. The pharmacy degree of Batchelor in Pharmacy is attained after successful completion of the modern syllabus and a one year practical internship training, both of which are regulated by the South African Pharmacy Council. It is designed to provide the scientific knowledge and practical expertise required by the developments in modern medicine.

After the one year internship pharmacists are required to undertake a year of Community Service in a government hospital or clinic selected by the National Department of Health.

On completion of the Community Service year pharmacists must register with the South African Pharmacy Council, and can then practice in any sector of pharmacy of their own choice.