‘We want your anti-apartheid struggle memorabilia’

Posted on October 04, 2018

Library Services’ 86-year-old Special Collections Unit already houses large collections of Africana, Pretoriana and Tukkiana – now it wants your help in boosting its anti-apartheid collection. 

Is your garage still playing host to a protest poster you took to a UDF march back in the 1980s? Did you hold on to any pamphlets related to the then-banned ANC? The items layered in dust you’re storing could play a much more important role in educating new generations about the different ways in which South Africans fought against apartheid.

Tukkievaria spoke to Nikki Haw, Co-ordinator and Senior Information Specialist at UP Library Services’ Special Collections Unit (SCU), about how staff and members of the public can help to preserve our history by donating anti-apartheid struggle memorabilia to the SCU.

Why has the SCU’s anti-apartheid collection become a priority now?

Special Collections wants to cover all aspects of South African history, and be relevant to all South Africans today. To do that, we need to develop our collections to fill any gaps – and there is lots of scope for development in this area. The Struggle History Collection is one of our smaller collections, and only became a consolidated collection after an audit of the individual collections we curate showed how certain collections could naturally be categorised together. This collection has never been actively developed before, and it’s an opportunity we want to grab and run with.

What types of items might staff members have that they could donate?

We would like pamphlets, posters, photographs, or other documents or visual media relating to the struggle against apartheid. If you’re unsure if what you have might be of interest to us, you’re welcome to pop us an email or come visit us in the Merensky Library on Hatfield Campus.

What items are currently in your Struggle History Collection?

The Struggle History Collection consists of five separate collections, including three volumes of court proceedings pertaining to the 1956 Treason Trial, a precursor to the Rivonia Treason Trial. We also have items from the Station Bomb Trial emanating from the Johannesburg station bomb in 1964, and items from the Delmas Trial Collection, which entailed the prosecution of 22 anti-apartheid activists. We also have the Hoover Institution Collection, a microfilm collection on South African politics and the Struggle Ephemera Collection, which is written or printed memorabilia related to the struggle against apartheid. This collection was started because of a donation to Special Collections of a single pamphlet, and it is this part of the Struggle History Collection that we would particularly like to develop.

What’s the most interesting thing in the collection?

As the Struggle History Collection is still small, and mainly consists of documents, it’s difficult to pick one interesting thing. If I had to choose, I’d say the Delmas Trial Collection is the most interesting, because of its completeness, subject matter, and the fact that this was once the longest trial in South African history, at over 450 days.

 When did you start collecting struggle-era memorabilia?

UP’s Special Collections Unit dates back to 1932. While the rest of the collections that form a part of the Struggle History Collection were donated or purchased by the university in the second half of the 20th century, we only started collecting Struggle Ephemera at the beginning of 2017, as a result of a fortuitous donation, which we decided to expand on.

What kind of access does staff have to the special collections?

We offer the same services as the other libraries, with the exception that books and other items are not allowed to be taken out. All resources must be used in our Reading Room, and returned on the same day. We are not open on weekends, and close at 4pm every week day.

What’s next for the SCU?

We have various digitisation projects in the works, such as the Delmas Trial documents – which form a part of the Struggle History Collection – and the Van Warmelo Collection, which comprises 540 manuscripts concerning the Xhosa, Zulu, Swazi, Tsonga, South Sotho and other indigenous South African groups, written in the original language and including information about the history, traditions, way of life, dress, laws, warfare and religion of the groups. This unpublished legacy will be invaluable to future generations of researchers. Both these collections will be uploaded to UPSpace in the near future.

Who can staff members contact if they want to discuss a donation or know more about the SCU? They are welcome to contact me at [email protected], or reach us via the SCU webpage.

- Author Myan Subrayan

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2024. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

To contact the University during the COVID-19 lockdown, please send an email to [email protected]

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences