New edition: Guide to the Manuscripts in the UCT Libraries

20 Mar 2020
20 Mar 2020

About the Guide

The Guide to the Manuscripts in the UCT Libraries provides a synoptic collection-level overview of the manuscript and archival holdings of UCT Libraries’ Special Collections. It provides an efficient first-line resource to assist researchers in identifying the existence of unpublished sources of potential relevance, before consulting the detailed finding aids of specific collections.

An updated edition of the Guide to the Manuscripts in the UCT Libraries has been published and is accessible on the Special Collections website.

The Guide to the Manuscripts with its database-type entries owes its origins to the online National Register of Manuscripts, to which UCT Libraries was an early contributor following its founding in 1978. The text version has subsequently been maintained and updated in-house as a publication. The last edition was published in 2016.

Image left: Zonnebloem College admission register with entries recording admission of children of chiefs from all over southern Africa, as well as the prominent Cressy family.

Search using the Guide

The Guide contains a brief summary of each archival collection in the sequence of its accession as the holdings have grown, as well as a detailed index at the end. It describes the substantive archival collections, single items that do not form part of collections, archival holdings in microform, manuscripts of South African composers and a large UCT-related collection. Using the find function, researchers can search for any name or subject, and quickly trawl through all the occurrences, noting collections of interest. Hyperlinks within the updated guide speed up navigation.

Extract of Zonnebloem Papers from Guide to Manuscripts & Archives
Image: Extract of Zonnebloem Papers from the Guide to the Manuscripts.

Locate on AtoM

Users can then go to the database of finding aids, Access to Memory or AtoM@UCT, to explore the detailed finding aids of collections identified to locate references to specific material so that access can be requested in the Special Collections reading room in the Jagger Library.

The Guide indicates per collection whether it is kept on-site and can therefore be made available immediately, or off-site, requiring advance notice to access. AtoM@UCT also provides a more intensive search functionality, enabling searching across all collections, as well as within a specific collection. 

Where detailed finding aids are not yet accessible online, they can be emailed on request or be consulted in hardcopy in the Special Collections reading room. A copy of the Guide itself is also available in print form.

Image left: A snapshot of part of the detailed finding aid on AtoM@UCT

The primary collection holdings reflected in the Guide are largely those in textual form that have historically formed the core of collection development since UCT Libraries actively commenced collecting archival material in the 1950s. While historical photographs form part of many of these collections, separate contemporary photographic and audio-visual collections have been developed in the past decade and guides specific to these holdings are available on request.

Author Clive Kirkwood (Archivist, Special Collections, UCT Libraries)

Image source Zonnebloem Papers, UCT Special Collections