PNA, South Africa’s one-stop stationery shop, has gifted R50 000 to the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Jagger Reading Room. The funds will go towards the rebuilding project to restore the much-loved library to its former glory.
The Jagger Reading Room was completely gutted when a runaway wildfire ripped through parts of UCT’s upper campus in April, leaving a trail of destruction. Several other iconic UCT buildings were also affected.
Ujala Satgoor, executive director of UCT Libraries, accepted the donation from PNA group general manager Herman Botha.
“This is an excellent example of ‘business South Africa’ investing in libraries that contribute to research and the knowledge economy.”
“This is an excellent example of ‘business South Africa’ investing in libraries that contribute to research and the knowledge economy. The gift from PNA will be added to our efforts towards creating permanent solutions for the preservation of our Special Collections,” Satgoor said.
In the aftermath of the fire, a team of expert restorers and volunteers have worked tirelessly to salvage thousands of wet items from the water-logged Jagger Reading Room basement. This process involves placing these items in cold storage – the first line of defence in an archive’s fire salvage plan.
Satgoor said she and the UCT Libraries team are grateful for the donation – especially as they are exploring the possibility of purchasing their own freeze dryer (cold storage) unit, to further mitigate any additional damage to the salvaged material.
“But this comes at a cost of R1.5 million for a basic unit,” she said.
The salvaged items are currently being stored at several controlled sub-zero-temperature locations across the city, and are being closely monitored for mould, which is said to further deteriorate paper and which results in image distortion.
“The [Jagger Reading Room was at the heart of UCT, and contained the most impressive collection of books, maps, newspapers and film from our country and the continent. The oldest book in the library was by the Roman historian of the first century Valerius Maximus, [and was] published in Germany in 1471,” said Botha.
“While some of these items, sadly, are irreplaceable, it was obvious that PNA [can contribute] financially to the university’s rehabilitation and preservation efforts.”
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