A wildfire that started on the slopes of Table Mountain on Sunday, 18 April 2021 swept across the upper campus of the University of Cape Town ravaging the Jagger library, which bore the brunt of the devastation.

The University of Cape Town’s Jagger Reading Room was left in ruins. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

A steady stream of volunteers, including many members of HiPSA, have been arriving daily to help with the removal of historic material from the basements before the restoration of the building commences. The teams have been packing the contents from the shelves into marked crates, to allow for the whole archive to be recreated in a temporary space.

The entrance to the Jagger Reading Room
HiPSA Chair, Prof Howard Phillips, lending a hand in the salvaging operation

Human chains are formed to move the contents to storage areas.

Workers getting into position to pass along crates (Photo Rolf Proske)
The workers take a break (Photo Rolf Proske)

Historical Publications Southern Africa decided to offer to donate as full a set of our volumes as we can gather (provisional count 79 hardback, softcover reprints or e-books) to replace whatever is lost or damaged. At the same time we challenged other publishers of Africana, both local and foreign, to make a similar offer to help UCT to begin to re-build its African Studies collection.

We received the following response from UCT: “On behalf of Special Collections, I gratefully acknowledge HiPSA’s generous offer, which we will record so as to follow up when it becomes possible. The highest priority is immediate disaster recovery to mitigate against water damage.”