UP has a large range of manuscripts donated by families of late luminaries. A case in point is the Dr van Warmelo collection that was presented to the university after the doctor’s death. The collection consists of 540 manuscripts in 97 boxes. PDBY reached out to the library to find out how they keep collections safe and the policy for collecting manuscripts.
“The Van Warmelo Collection, as well as other documents collections, are specifically housed in the Special Collections Unit, in order to preserve them. The Special Collections unit safeguards the closed collections of the library, and these collections can only be used at the unit, under the supervision of the Special Collections staff”, said Nikki Haw, the coordinator of the Special Collections Department of Library Services.
The university has a policy in place for collecting manuscripts. According to Haw, the collection criteria, as outlined in the collection policy, is that collections must either fall within one of the collecting themes (such as Africana or Rare Books etc) or must originate from a member of the UP community (staff and/or alumni).
Haw stated that the Special Collections unit and the digitisation unit of the UP Library are currently collaborating on various projects to ensure the safety of these collections from incidents like the fire at the University of Cape Town in April. Haw emphasised the importance of digitisation in preserving important manuscripts and literature. The university prides itself in preserving such collections, and adding value to the national heritage and history of the institution.
Some of the most notable collections that the university features in its library were donated by the families of alumni that have passed on. Occasionally donors approach the university due to its ability to preserve and safeguard these manuscripts. This according to Haw, not only adds to the history of the institution, but it makes the library the caretaker of institutional and national heritage. The Van Warmelo Collection, for example, has information that is not held anywhere else.