UCT Libraries celebrates sixty years of special collections

13 May 2013

This year, the University Libraries' Special Collections Section celebrates its 60th anniversary. The event - and the official opening of the newly-restored JW Jagger Reading Room, which now houses all the Special Collections under one roof - will be held as part of the university's Africa Month celebrations.

It's thanks to the vision of René Immelman, University Librarian from 1935 to 1970, that UCT's collections of African and rare published materials and manuscripts were begun, said libraries executive director Gwenda Thomas.

"Successive library heads have continued to support the growth of these collections and their development into the fine research repository that it is today - attracting scholars both nationally and internationally."

The collections that make up Special Collections - the African Studies Collection, Manuscripts & Archives, the Audio-Visual Archive, and the rare books collections - include books, pamphlets, periodicals, photographs and film, archival material, maps and posters, and are renowned for their extent, their depth, and their uniqueness.

A world-class collection deserves a fitting home; and to this end, the JW Jagger building has been painstakingly restored, reflecting an international emphasis on the importance and centrality of special collections in academic libraries.

Designed by JM Solomon, and one of the first buildings erected on the Groote Schuur campus, the JW Jagger Reading Room once again exudes a gracious and scholarly ambience. Since it re-opened its doors in August last year, the many very favourable comments from researchers attest to the success of this vision.

The official opening last week will be followed throughout Africa Month by events that showcase some of the collections. There will be screenings of African films from the extensive audio-visual archive, displays showing examples from some of the 'manuscript, rare book and Africana collections', and a digital and print exhibition of maps of Africa.

UCT Libraries will be celebrating Africa Month with a variety of events:

  • Maps of Africa, a digital and print exhibition, opened on 11 May in the Research Wing Level 4 of the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library. This exhibition showcases a selection of the maps in UCT Libraries' collections, placing them in their historical context.
  • Film screenings will be held on the last three Fridays of May in the Ulwazi Training Lab in the Knowledge Commons of the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library, starting at 12h45.
  • 17 May: A Day With The President (1995) 53 mins
  • 24 May: Mama Goema: The Cape Town Beat In Five Movements (2011) 56 mins
  • 31 May: Ikon South Africa,: Short documentary showcase
    • Native Yard 1 3 mins
    • Gemaakte Hare 7 mins
    • Biko's Children 14 mins
    • Amina My Daughter 15 mins
    • Pam & Ashraf 15 mins

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