Dismay and grief met the news that the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) historic Jagger Reading Room had been lost to fire on 18 April. The Jagger Reading Room was home to the African Studies collection, started in 1953, as well as portions of many other collections: journals, ephemera, manuscripts, film and video, and maps and rare antiquarian books. The facility, initially called the JW Jagger Library, was built in the 1930s and named after a UCT major benefactor. It served as the main library for a time and then as a short loans centre. From 2000 to 2011 it was the reading room of the African Studies Library. In 2011 it was significantly restored. Commenting on the fire’s aftermath, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said: “Many of us will feel the devastation of the loss of this significant institutional asset but we will walk the road to rebuild our facilities together.”
The photos in this essay show some of the ruins inside the Jagger Library following the devastating fire that burned the Reading Room and parts of the foyer; with vaults and storage facilities getting wet, some archives have been destroyed.
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In an email to UCT students, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“Thank you for your patience as we seek ways to return to full academic activity at the University of Cape Town under COVID-19 regulations. Our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of everyone who needs to return to campus buildings.”
UCT is deeply grateful to all the donors who supplied food and other essential items for our students, and to everyone who has so generously offered other forms of support and assistance.
Everyone who would like to support the #UCTFire emergency relief fund is urged to please make financial donations to UCT through the UCT Alumni Ways to Give web page.
Donations can also be made by EFT using the details below:
Account name: UCT Donations Account
Bank: Standard Bank of South Africa
Branch code: Rondebosch Branch, 025009
Account number: 07 152 2387
Swift code: SBZAZAJJ
Please include your donor name if you so wish, as well as the reference for your donation, e.g. Name Surname, #UCTFire.