A timeline of major developments during the Jagger Library Recovery Project.

Phase 1: Salvage

April 2021

  • Sunday 18 April
    • Jagger Reading Room destroyed by a fire
  • Monday 19 April
    • Ms Nikki Crowster (Director: IS&R) appointed Salvage and Recovery Project Lead
    • Dr Dale Peters, taken on board as advisor in her capacity as former line manager of Special Collections, qualified librarian and trained book and paper conservator for the implementation of the disaster recovery plan and an immediate global call for assistance is made
  • Tuesday 20 April
    • Technical Team discover flooding of the basements of the Jagger Library caused by the ingress caused by the enormous amount of water used to douse the fire.
    • In consultation with ED: Libraries and Principal Archivist, the decision was made to remove all materials from the basements
  • Wednesday 21 April
    • Establishment of triage tent
    • A team of local and international expert conservators, co-ordinated by Dr Dale Peters, identified to support the triage
  • Thursday 22 April
    • The building was declared safe for entry.
    • Initial assessment by UCT Libraries Special Collections staff and identification of most valuable collections for immediate removal
    • Commencement of removal of waterlogged materials
    • Launch of Jagger Library Recovery webpage
    • Call for volunteers and crates
  • Friday 23 April
    • Commencement of organised salvage of materials
    • A cold storage container brought on site to stabilise materials prepared for freeze drying or later action
  • Sunday 25 April
    • triage tent liaisons introduced
  • Wednesday 28 April
    • arrival of the UP Tangible Heritage Conservation team led by Isabelle McGinn.
  • Thursday 29 April
    • All water damaged materials removed.
    • Over 60% of materials salvaged/removed.
    • Identification of off-site premises for the storage and recovery of all materials salvaged from the Jagger Library wef 11 May 2021.

May 2021

  • Sunday 2 May
    • Triage Tent re-organisation and Co-ordinator appointed to work with Conservator Lead and organise conservator volunteers.
    • Arrival of Tina Lohr, Cologne, Germany.
    • 75% of materials removed from the basement.
  • Monday 3 May
  • Tuesday 4 May
    • All books are crated and removed from shelves and compactus.
    • All rolled materials are removed from the basement.
  • Wednesday-Friday 5-7 May
    • All fire rubble removed from the site.
    • Two additional containers brought onto site to be used as a second cold storage container and a drying chamber.
    • Random checking of crated and stored materials checked for damp and mould.
    • Finalisation of off-site premises; commencement of measuring of spatial requirements for reconstituting Special Collections in its new interim home.
    • Business continuity – scan and email services and book collections by appointment resume 5 May
    • Off-site book collections resume at Burnage 7 May.
  • Thursday 6 May
    • Undamaged material for physical processing removed from the Jagger store and shelved in the Level 7 compactus. When processed, a note will be added to each item record: Survived the Jagger Library fire, 18 April 2021.
    • Undamaged donated published materials that still require cataloguing removed from the Jagger store and stored in the Level 7 staff tea room in crates. When catalogued, a note will be added to each item record: Survived the Jagger Library fire, 18 April 2021.
  • Sunday 9 May
    • All materials on shelves and compactus within the Jagger basement is removed.
    • Removal of the African Studies books relating to Afrikaans and African literature and history from shelving on Level 3.
    • The Level 3 Jagger store is cleared and dry/safe materials stored.
    • The Jagger cataloguing store is cleared and materials moved to the Acquisitions store.

Phase 2: Recovery

  • Monday 10 May
    • Mary Minicka, Conservator at the Cape Archives assumes conservator lead at the triage tent.
    • Fire-damaged surviving administrative records of the Manuscripts Repository is removed from the Archives Office.
    • Phase One: Salvage of the entire holdings kept in the Jagger Library basements completed.
  • Tuesday 11 May
    • UNESCO Regional Director, Prof Hubert Gijzen visits the Jagger Library site and commits to hosting a digitisation conference at UCT to mark the rebuilding of the “new” library.
    • Immelman 24/7 is re-arranged and volunteers begin Quality Assurance to ensure all damp and mouldy material is removed.
    • AV repository moved to University House and AV cleaning crew begins work.
  • Wednesday 12 May
    • African Studies Periodicals removed from Level 4 shelving.
    • Special Collections Librarians and volunteers embark on huge effort to remove the soot-covered (but stable and intact) ASL Periodicals collection through dry-brushing.
  • Thursday 13 May
    • Triage tent on University Avenue is repurposed as a dedicated Special Collections work space for treating the Administrative records.
    • Volunteers finish removing the Periodicals from Level 4 and move onto Level 3 for the remaining African Studies Library Books.
    • Libraries ED publishes a status update: Wrapping up the salvage phase and the way forward
  • Friday 14 May
  • Monday 17 May
    • Last day for volunteers working in triage and extraction.
    • Cold storage for freeze-drying of materials commences.
  • Tuesday 18 May
  • Wednesday 19 May
    • New interim premises confirmed for Special Collections in Mowbray where we will be able to reconstitute Special Collections as a library. The layout will include workspaces, a conservation unit, collections infrastructure and storage.
  • Thursday 20 May
    • Mary Minicka’s last day, Special Collections takes over the triage tent.
  • Monday 24 May
    • African Studies Librarians complete project of cleaning soot out of the African Studies Periodicals.
    • Ongoing rehabilitation of different format materials at different sites.
  • Wednesday 26 May
    • First batch of damaged Rare Books sent to DK Conservators for restoration.
  • Friday 28 May
    • Finalisation of lease for off-site premises.

June - July 2021

Special Collections start the move to Maitland House

The Special Collections team began relocation to new premises at the Maitland House 2 office complex in Mowbray, Cape Town. 

Stocktaking and pack up of salvaged African Studies Collection

The salvaged collections stored in temporary locations on upper campus were prepped for transport in crates to Maitland House. The Rare and Antiquarian Books in the Kaplan Centre and the map cabinets were amongst the first materials transported.

The Published Collections team undertook an intensive stocktake of the salvaged African Studies collection in preparation for the move.

This process is ongoing, with all Published Collections staff involved in the updating of status on the library records for books salvaged from ‘Lost in 2021 Fire’ to ‘Survived the Jagger Library fire 18 April 2021’. 

While triage and further conservation efforts continued in the Library Learning Lounge, the final set of African Studies Library books was removed by Isipani on 17 June 2021 from an area of Jagger Library previously inaccessible.

Archivist Clive Kirkwood publishes article in the Journal of the Historical Society of Cape Town

An article by an archivist in UCT Libraries Special Collections Clive Kirkwood was published in Cabo: Journal of the Historical Society of Cape Town entitled The Fire Disaster in the University of Cape Town's Jagger Library and its consequences.

August - September 2021

Reboxing of salvaged materials begin

The Garlick Papers was the first of the manuscripts returned to circulation after reboxing and labelling. The entire collection was sodden after the fire and painstakingly dried by volunteers during the Jagger Library Salvage Project. Further intake of the salvaged stock continued.

Clearing of temporary storage spaces on Upper Campus begins

The relocation of salvaged materials to Maitland House facilitated the emptying of temporary storage locations around UCT's upper campus. Some of these locations included:

  • The Kaplan Centre
  • English Common Room
  • Classrooms in the A.C Jordan building
  • The CAS Gallery
  • Library Learning Lounge

October - November 2021

Government Publications rise again

The Government Publications team processed all the books that survived the fire and changed their status to PHOENIX. While the collection was adversely affected, these books escaped the fire because they were still in the Acquisitions Department. 

Hogarth, a supplier of Government Publications, continued to send publications throughout 2021. The team was able to catch up on these new acquisitions, with many new book titles for cataloguing. 

The Clarke’s Bookshop donations of new and replacement Government Publications from Mozambique were also processed. 

December 2021 - January 2022

Crates get reshuffled

After a massive physical crate re-ordering project with PJ Cartage, the archivists could work steadily on the stocktake of an estimated 7500-8000 archival boxes, now placed in order of the stocktake number.

January 2022

Crates of salvaged material move to cold storage facility, thanks to I&J

750 crates of standard-sized books and archival material were relocated to I&J Cold Store facilities in Paarden Island on 17 January 2022. The Cold Storage containers on the Plaza were emptied and finally removed. Oversize materials brought to Maitland House for restoration and storage in deep freezers. 

Crates of materials salvaged from the Jagger Library Basement in April 2021 were placed in cold chambers to preserve them. These crates were removed and taken to a cold storage facility at I&J’s Paarden Eiland Distribution Centre. This was made possible through the very generous offer of a cold storage facility from I&J to support the ongoing UCT Libraries Special Collections Recovery Project.

Clearing salvaged architectural drawings, archival boxes, African Studies book collection and Rare Books Collection also took place. 

AV Digitisation Project

UCT Libraries embarked on a year-long multi-pronged grant from the National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences with the preparation of materials for digitisation.

The AV digitisation project commenced on 10 January 2022 on Immelman Level 4 of the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library. The space was re-configured to receive the AV stock from University House, with infrastructure supported by Libraries Facilities and Properties & Services. 

All salvaged AV assets were re-wound in preparation for ingestion. A minimal number of assets found damaged (except those water damaged) were treated and placed in cold storage with I&J.

February 2022

UP Graduates get conservator training by Tina Lohr

German conservator Tina Lohr returns to Cape Town from Cologne to assist with establishing a conservation unit in the Libraries. 

Daniele Knoetze and Jabulile Ntuli, two graduate students of Dr Isabell McGinn from the University of Pretoria, spent two weeks (31 January - 15 February 2022) working in the conservation unit under the guidance and tutelage of Tina Lohr.

Clearing of temporary storage spaces on Upper Campus complete

With the clearing of the Library Learning Lounge and the University House dining hall, all storage spaces used during the salvage were cleared by the Libraries before the new academic year began, on Monday 14 February 2022.

March 2022

Archival re-boxing reaches its first milestone

The reboxing of the archives reached its first milestone on 15 March 2022 with the return of nearly 200 newly re-packaged archival boxes to circulation in the Oppenheimer and Meulenhof off-site stores, respectively. These archival boxes contained salvaged material from the reserve shelving area of the Jagger Reading Room.