Jagger reflections: ‘Wealth of resources at his fingertips’

25 May 2021 | Reflection Morgan Morris. Photo Lerato Maduna. Read time 3 min.
As a student, Morgan Morris had a wealth of resources at his fingertips.
As a student, Morgan Morris had a wealth of resources at his fingertips.

Things had changed for both me and UCT when I returned to start my master’s of documentary arts in 2018. I was discernibly older than when I had started my undergraduate studies at the university back in the mid-1990s, my midriff had expanded substantially, and a few cracks were beginning to show in the façade. While UCT… well, now that I think about it, pretty much the same. But while my relationship with the institution was as conflicted as ever – surprise, it’s not perfect – this time around I allowed myself to appreciate the beauty of the physical campus. I gorged myself on it. I took pride on getting to campus just after six in the morning, getting myself a coffee and fresh koeksisters at the similarly early-rising food court, plonking myself on Jammie Campus – I’m not sure if the steps’ name had changed, in keeping with the hall overlooking it – and snapping the sunrise.

By the end of my first month back, I had shamelessly swamped the ‘Gram with portraits of the campus. I did likewise when I visited the Jagger Reading Room for the first time a few months into my studies. Now, I had been to that part of the library in the 1990s. I had worked there often as a student assistant (I seem to recall that it housed Short Loans back then, but don’t trust my creaky memory) and, briefly after finishing my honours degree, as a card-carrying staff member. Now I gawped and drooled. And it wasn’t just that I had shed my inhibitions and the venue was gorgeous, which makes being a student a joy, I found. But by 2018 I’d also had the privilege of visiting several campuses around the country, from the Eastern Cape to Limpopo. I had been to labs overrun with toys, and labs where students lined up five or 10 abreast to share a little piece of equipment. I had wandered through libraries cavernous, while elsewhere had heard lecturers bewail their institutions’ meagre holdings. This time around, I allowed myself to appreciate UCT. In the Jagger Reading Room, I felt I could simply snap my fingers and the staff would be able to find what I needed. (Yes, they would right also have snapped off my fingers had I been that rude. Despite their reputation as genteel and bookish, library staff, I have found everywhere, don’t stand for attitude). 

Other than an initial pang of guilt, I embraced my good fortune at being a student with all that wealth of resources at his fingertips. Newspapers, photographs, rare copies of long-forgotten documentaries, all there if I needed it. Understandably, when I saw online visuals of the Jagger Reading Room in flames, I was shocked. My first thought went to the materials that I had used there not too long ago. “All probably gone now”, I WhatsApped friends. Some material, I read later, had been in safe-keeping (kind of literally). Many more had been lost, with some likely irreplaceable. As someone for whom the library in his Cape Flats community was an escape, I perhaps mourn the loss even more. Especially in the wake of a year where few students had been able to avail themselves of the facility. 

Morgan Morris holds a BA and BA (Hons) from UCT, completed in 1995 and 1996 respectively. He will eventually complete his MA.

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#UCTFire – one year later

Jagger Library Memorial Exhibition opens on 20 April 2022

The Centre for Curating the Archive, in association with Michaelis Galleries (UCT) and UCT Libraries will stage a memorial exhibition marking the one-year anniversary of the tragic Jagger Library fire at the Michaelis Galleries. The exhibition will open to the public on Wednesday, 20 April 2022.

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Memories of Jagger Library – stories from the UCT community

Content submitted by members of the UCT community has been published with little to no editorial intervention from UCT News.

#UCTFire – stories from the UCT community

Content submitted by members of the UCT community has been published with little to no editorial intervention from UCT News. 


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
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