UCT VC shares good news on Jagger Reading Room salvage project

11 June 2021 | Story Helen Swingler. Read time 4 min.
The painstaking work of UCT Libraries staff and over 2 000 volunteers has been pivotal to salvaging damaged archival material from the Jagger Reading Room. Photo Lerato Maduna.
The painstaking work of UCT Libraries staff and over 2 000 volunteers has been pivotal to salvaging damaged archival material from the Jagger Reading Room. Photo Lerato Maduna.

In a communiqué to staff and students on 9 June 2021, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, praised UCT Libraries staff and over 2 000 volunteers who have contributed to the good progress being made in recovering the valuable archives from the Jagger Reading Room basements. This follows the 18 April mountain fire that breached UCT’s campus and, among other damage, destroyed the historic Jagger Reading Room.

Professor Phakeng referred the UCT community to the photographic chronicle of the salvage operation, captured in dramatic images by staff in the Communication and Marketing Department.

UCT Libraries staff
Volunteers worked five-hour shifts between 21 April and 10 May. Photo Je’nine May.

The figures cited in the communiqué reflect the sheer scope of the salvage project:

  • 10 000: the number of items that are in cold storage as part of the rehabilitation process for water-damaged materials.
  • 12 900: the number of crates that were filled with materials to minimise handling during their removal from the basements.
  • 2 000: the number of hardworking volunteers who helped the university throughout the salvage project. These volunteers worked five-hour shifts, from 08:00 to 18:00 between 21 April and 10 May.
  • 17: the number of days it took to remove the materials from the Jagger Reading Room basements.
  • 8: the number of locations where materials have been stored after triage (during which time experts separated wet and dry materials and determined the appropriate intervention for impacted materials).
  • 0: UCT is pleased to report that due to strict protocols and induction in place, no person tested positive for COVID-19.
UCT Libraries staff
Due to strict protocols and induction in place, no person tested positive for COVID-19. Photo Lerato Maduna.

In the two months since the fire, UCT Libraries staff and an army of volunteers have worked tirelessly to salvage some of the invaluable material housed in the library and basements. Volunteers included South African and international experts who travelled to UCT or advised from afar on the preservation processes.

 

“We would not have made it this far without the help of individuals and organisations.”

Phakeng said: “On behalf of UCT and the UCT Libraries colleagues, I thank everyone who played a role in this arduous process. We would not have made it this far without the help of individuals and organisations who provided what we needed to begin the salvage and conservation work, including materials, specialised equipment, financial donations, and muscle power. I give special thanks to our colleagues who work in UCT Libraries and whose life work has been affected by this tragedy.”

UCT Libraries staff
UCT Libraries staff and an army of volunteers have worked tirelessly to salvage some of the invaluable material housed in the library and basements. Photo Lerato Maduna.

Phakeng added that the Libraries’ Special Collections team would be moving into interim premises in Mowbray, where they would “reconstitute as a library” and continue the restoration work.

And despite the havoc of the past two months and during this salvage process, UCT Libraries colleagues had continued their other services without fail, she added.

“This includes all transactional services by request; research support for master’s and PhD students in collaboration with leading national and international universities and the National Library of South Africa; and keeping all branches of the Libraries available as study spaces and the Virtual Library Services.”

In a concluding commendation, Phakeng wrote: “Please join me in wishing the members of the UCT Libraries team well as they continue their delicate and important restoration of UCT’s priceless archives.”


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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.

Messages of support


Cengage EMEA 17:00, 7 June 2021
Ricardo de Sao Joao 16:00, 17 May 2021
J.P. Morgan 10:00, 17 May 2021
Unilever Southern Africa 16:10, 6 May 2021
Iziko Museums of South Africa 16:20, 5 May 2021
Sciences Po, France 10:05, 4 May 2021
The University of Tokyo 09:00, 30 April 2021
McCall MacBain Foundation 16:00, 29 April 2021
Stephen Toope, Chair of IARU 23:50, 27 April 2021
Mazi Asset Management 21:00, 27 April 2021
The National Archives (UK) 17:40, 27 April 2021
Universiteit Antwerpen 16:20, 26 April 2021
Yale University 21:15, 23 April 2021
SOAS University of London 17:00, 23 April 2021
University of Nairobi 15:45, 23 April 2021
Zhejiang University 12:05, 23 April 2021
University of Glasgow 11:20, 23 April 2021
Durham University 18:20, 22 April 2021
Sanlam Corporate Team 16:00, 22 April 2021
MANCOSA 16:00, 22 April 2021
Mastercard Foundation 13:30, 22 April 2021
National Research Foundation 09:05, 22 April 2021
Taylor & Francis 08:20, 22 April 2021
McGill University, Canada 21:35, 21 April 2021
Wild Bean Café 19:50, 21 April 2021
Worldwide Universities Network 19:10, 21 April 2021
University of Groningen 13:35, 21 April 2021
National University of Lesotho 11:00, 21 April 2021
Google South Africa 10:35, 21 April 2021
Chinese Ambassador Chen Xiaodong 09:00, 21 April 2021
George Whitefield College 08:40, 21 April 2021
Virginia Tech 02:00, 21 April 2021
University of Southampton 18:10, 20 April 2021
University of the Free State 17:25, 20 April 2021
KU Leuven 15:45, 20 April 2021
Northwestern University 15:45, 20 April 2021
Council on Higher Education 14:00, 20 April 2021
Times Higher Education 11:45, 20 April 2021
Regent Business School 11:15, 20 April 2021
Professor Crain Soudien 09:05, 20 April 2021
University of the Western Cape 09:00, 20 April 2021
Bishop Tshalo Katshunga 07:30, 20 April 2021
National Library of France 20:50, 19 April 2021
Thabo Mbheki Foundation 20:00, 19 April 2021
Stellenbosch University 19:10, 19 April 2021
Chinese Embassy in South Africa 17:20, 19 April 2021
University of Hull 17:00, 19 April 2021
University of Copenhagen 13:25, 19 April 2021
Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies 13:10, 19 April 2021
Mastercard Foundation 10:50, 19 April 2021
Stellenbosch University 09:20, 19 April 2021
Minister Blade Nzimande 09:15, 19 April 2021
Committee on Higher Education 09:10, 19 April 2021
University of the Witwatersrand 09:05, 19 April 2021
University of Pretoria 09:00, 19 April 2021

 

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