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Primo Library Guide: Accessing Special Collections

The guide will show you how to use UCT's one stop search tool to search for all scholarly content

What are Archival Materials?

Archival materials are records that are created (or collected) by an individual, family, or organisation during the execution of their duties or functions. For example:

  • A university professor’s research notes, unpublished papers, lectures, and speeches collected over the course of her academic career
  • An NGO’s minutes of meetings, reports, correspondence and other documents created in the execution of its duties
  • A family’s photo albums detailing the history of successive generations
  • An eminent person’s correspondence, diaries, memorabilia, and scrapbooks  

Archival materials are generally unpublished materials. They are often referred to as primary sources.

Archival material is collected for many reason, such as:

  • Archival records serve as evidence of the activities and functions of the creators of the records
  • Archival records are kept for re-use by researchers because they are considered to have enduring value
  • Archival records uphold the memory of an individual, family, organisation, or society (or segments of a society)

Types of Archival Materials at UCT Libraries

Archival materials held by UCT Libraries include:

  • Textual records
  • Photographs
  • Newspapers and newspaper clippings
  • Architectural drawings, plans, and blueprints
  • Audio-visual materials (audio tapes, films, etc.)
  • Institutional records (UCT publications)

Am I able to request archival materials using Primo?

At present, the answer is NO.

AtoM@UCT exposes only the very top layer of descriptive information to be harvested by Primo. Primo will direct users to the AtoM@UCT record, where they will be able to view the full finding aid.  

Searching and Accessing Archival Materials?

There are some 1600 physical collections of archival materials housed at UCT Libraries Special Collections. Each of these collections has a finding aid. A finding aid is a document that provides descriptive information regarding the contents of an archival collection.

Hard-copy finding aids are available in the Jagger Library Reading Room (for location, see

An on-line catalogue, AtoM@UCT, provides electronic access to many of the finding aids (not all legacy finding aids have been loaded yet). AtoM@UCT can be accessed at

At present, archival collections must be accessed in the reading room. In time, more and more digitised content from the collections will be made available via AtoM@UCT. A document delivery service is available, making it possible for researches to request digitised content. Queries regarding digitised content should be directed to