The Jagger Library at the University of Cape Town has been severely damaged by fire. The library houses the university’s special collections, which includes its historic African literature collections. The Rondebosch campus was also affected. No fatalities have been reported so far.
The fire started at Rhodes Memorial on Sunday and spread to the University by Monday morning. Multiple news outlets report that at least one arrest has been made. Firefighters and emergency personnel have been on ground handling the fire and carrying out some evacuations.
There is no official word yet on how much of the collections is lost. But the building, which is itself historic, is currently so severely damaged that it might not be salvageable, implying considerable losses to archives of prized African literary documents.
According to the library’s website, J.W. Jagger Library holds the African Studies collections, which contains “approximately 65 000 volumes, including up-to-date materials as well as works on Africa and South Africa printed before 1925, and many hard-to-find volumes in a wide range of European and African languages. The pamphlet collection consists of just under 26 000 titles, with a further 800 rare or old titles, published before 1925.” Ujala Satgoor, Executive Director of the library, said on Facebook earlier today that “the fire detection system in place triggered the fire shutters thereby preventing the spread of the fire to other parts of the Library.” But she also noted that library’s “Reading Room is completely gutted,” meaning that everything not protected by the shutter is probably lost.
Go here for information on how to DONATE to the #utcfire emergency relief fund. Some scholars are circulating this link where anyone with digital copies of documents from the collection can share them.
Here are videos of the burning and the aftermath.
🇿🇦 [FLASH] Un #incendie a ravagé la bibliothèque de l’université de #CapeTown , en #Afrique du sud .
Le dernier moulin à vent encore fonctionnel , bâti en 1796 , a été détruit .
De nombreux livres sont partis en fumée . (IOL) #uctfire #capefire #capetownfire pic.twitter.com/4Gr4QUPi7e
— Jean-louis David (@timbaland57) April 19, 2021
#UCT libraries have been closed until further notice. The Jagger Library was gutted by Sunday’s fire. Firefighters are still at the scene. video: Phando Jikelo @UCT_news @UCT_SRC #capetownfire pic.twitter.com/nWiLvbBgIo
— Weekend Argus (@WeekendArgus) April 19, 2021
This is Ujala Satgoor’s full statement posted on Facebook from earlier today.
Dear Colleagues, staff, students and friends of UCT Libraries
Facebook graph image via The South African.