Access to materials
Special Collections remains in recovery after the fire and researchers should contact the department to find out about access to relevant materials. Currently, there is only limited reference service available.
Jagger Recovery Project at Special Collections
The University of Cape Town Libraries Special Collections consists of published and archival holdings considered significant to the institution. It was previously housed in the Jagger Library, until it was destroyed by fire in April 2021. Special Collections remains in recovery to rebuild and restore its world-renowned collections. Visit the Jagger Recovery page to learn more about our progress after the Jagger Library fire and recovery.

Before the fire, our collections consisted of printed and audio-visual materials on African studies and a wide array of other specialised subjects, as well as over 1600 sub-collections of unique manuscripts and personal papers. The collection of books and pamphlets exceeded 85000 items on African Studies alone. The collection of African films was amongst the most extensive in the world, with over 3500 films available for viewing and research.

Postal Address

The Librarian, Special Collections, University of Cape Town, Private Bag x 3, Rondebosch 7701, Western Cape, South Africa


Explore our manuscripts and archives collections



Find African Studies books, maps, posters and more.



A wide selection of cartographic material including over 5 000 published African maps covering a range of topics, eras and officially produced atlases and hand-drawn maps.

Audiovisual Archive

The Audiovisual Archive includes some 20,000 items, including 35 and 16-mm film and video.


Our archival holdings consist of original research material and personal papers on the political, social, cultural and economic history of Southern Africa, with a strong focus on the Western Cape.

African Studies Book Collection

Published Collections included the significant African Studies collections of published monographs and pamphlets. This collection was founded in 1953.

Pamphlets and Ephemera

Special Collections has a large collection of South and Southern African posters and political ephemera.

Newspaper Archives

Newspaper holdings are rich and varied, including nearly-complete runs of the Cape Argus and the Cape Times from the 19th century, as well as many community newspapers and press clippings.


The photographic archive in Special Collections has material that spans a period from the inception of photography to the present day, from fragile prints to digital format.

Journals and Magazines

Our holdings include current academic journals related to African studies in both print and digital formats. Collections of popular magazines with historic significance, and academic and community periodicals which are no longer published.

African Studies Film Collection

The African Film Collection comprises Africa-themed documentaries, feature films, and shorts, including television series, which have either been made in Africa or have predominantly African-related content.
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Published Collections

Our published collections include African studies books, films, maps, newspapers, government publications, rare and Antiquarian books, and pamphlets.
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Primary Collections

Our primary collections consist of archival holdings such as manuscripts, audiovisual archives, photographs and the UCT Historical Pamphlets and Photographs Collection.
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Digital Collections

Digital Collections at UCT Libraries represent a selection of material available through UCT’s archival holdings, primarily held in UCT Libraries Special Collections.
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Search & Find

Library Resources

  • Find the African Studies book collection on Primo - a note, Survived Fire 2021 identifies salvaged books that survived the fire.
  • Archival holdings are found on our database of finding aids Access to Memory, AtoM@UCT.
  • Current print periodical titles are available via Databases A-Z.

News & Stories

Rescued from the Flames: Special Collections' hidden gem

The African Studies Library pamphlet collection is regarded as one of UCT Libraries' greatest treasures. After surviving the Jagger Library fire, the complete collection was recently digitised for posterity and made discoverable.

Crate by Crate: Making Progress Visible in AV Recovery

The AV Archive used to live in the basement of the Jagger Library and was one of the first areas to be salvaged following the fire. A decision was made to expedite the recovery of the AVA through a digitisation project.