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Unpublished collections at UCT Libraries Special Collections: Welcome

A brief introduction to some of the major collections of original manuscript material that are housed in the manuscripts and archives section of Special Collections.


There is a steam engine on top of Table Mountain.

To find out how it got there, peruse the Terence Timoney Papers (BC1430).



The Bleek and Lloyd Collection (BC151) is listed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.



The campus was at times a site of struggle during the 70s and 80s.


A photograph from our BUZV collection documenting the history of UCT.


One of the many beautiful botanical paintings in our collection. For more botanical papers, see, for example, the Bolus collection.


Who we are and what we do

Our unpublished materials comprise an extensive collection of original research material relating to the political, social, cultural and economic history of the Western Cape, as well as regions further afield.

Collection development policy

We collect original research material relating to the political, social, cultural and economic history of Southern Africa, with a strong focus on the Western Cape. The collections support research by a wide range of scholars whose work relies on primary resource materials.

We collect and preserve original archival collections, in all media.

Collecting Rationale

Our primary responsibility is to serve the research needs of faculty and students at the University of Cape Town. To this end, we seek to collect in subject areas which reflect the major research thrusts of this University.

Collections are acquired on the basis of their value for current and potential future research at this University. 

Examples of current collection areas include:

  • personal papers of people whose papers constitute an important record of Southern African social history;
  • papers of communities not strongly represented in this or other archives;
  • corporate papers of non-governmental organizations, companies and institutions;
  • personal and research papers of UCT academics;
  • non-administrative records relating to the history of UCT;
  • UCT student and departmental publications;
  • architectural collections;
  • papers and records of ethnic and religious communities;
  • manuscript music scores and personal papers of South African composers;
  • papers relating to labour and trade, and the records of labour unions;
  • oral history of South Africa;
  • papers and other media associated with important social, historical, or cultural issues or movements; and
  • vsual records of social, cultural, or historical importance, such as documentary film and photography.

Types of records collected:

  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs (prints, negatives and slides)
  • Archival film footage
  • Sound recordings
  • Digital records
  • Prints and drawings
  • Artefacts, where they strongly relate to collections
  • Artworks, where they strongly relate to collections or are historical records in their own right

We do not accept collections that are closed to public access in perpetuity.

Where to find us

We are situated in the J.W. Jagger Library, which was recently restored. The entrance is on Library Road.

Our opening hours are as follows:

Term hours

Weekdays 08h30 to 17h30

Saturdays 09h00 to 13h00

Vacation hours

Weekdays 08h30 to 17h00

Saturdays 09h00 to 12h30


Reading room     

The newly restored reading room