A wildfire displaced 4000 students and destroyed several buildings on the University of Cape Town’s campus over the weekend, including UCT’s Jagger Reading Room, which houses part of the UCT Libraries’ Special Collections. This is a major loss; UCT’s Special Collections consist of printed and audiovisual material on African studies, more than 1300 subcollections of unique manuscripts and personal papers, and one of the most extensive African film collections in the world.
The exact scale of the damage is still unclear. Said Ujala Satgoor, executive director of UCT Libraries, to Newzroom Afrika: “[Though] we’re still in the process of assessing, the Jagger Reading Room has been completely gutted. The loss to the academic project is enormous . . . it’s only going to come to light as we unearth exactly what has been lost.”
The Society of American Archivists has put out a call on UCT’s behalf asking archivists who have worked with UCT’s special collections to take stock of any materials they may have digitized; there is a Google Form available where academics can input information regarding UCT-housed documents they have copied or photographed, so UCT can contact responders at their own pace. If you’ve ever worked in UCT’s special collections, consider filling out the form; SAA also asks that archivists pass along the message to their respective institutions.
In addition, UCT has set up a relief fund, the details of which can be found here.