Statement on the fire at the University of Cape Town (Jagger Library) on the 18th April 2021

SCOLMA is saddened to hear of the damage caused to the Jagger Library and its collections by the fire which broke out on Table Mountain last weekend.  The Library and its preeminent collections have been used by students and researchers for generations, and have contributed to learning and leading scholarly research on Africa.

SCOLMA hopes to learn more on how we can help our colleagues at UCT to recover from this tragedy.

Please see this Nature Briefing which includes a call for photos and digital scans of the library’s collections: ‘The damage is total’: fire rips through historic South African library and plant collection

News on a fundraising initiative at the University has been announced here: Fire affecting the Rondebosch campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT)


SCOLMA Committee – 23rd April 2021

GENERAL MEETING – Friday 30th April

Notice is hereby given that SCOLMA (the UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa) will hold a GENERAL MEETING on Friday 30 April 2021, 10:00-11:30 BST.


The meeting will discuss, and be asked to agree, proposals for the merger of the SCOLMA journal, African Research and Documentation, with Africa Bibliography, a journal of the International African Institute.


SCOLMA is proposing this change because it believes that the proposed merger will ensure the long-term survival of its journal. It will also make the journal much more widely available and ensure its ongoing publication in both print and digital forms, and should make possible the digitisation of the complete back-run of the journal.


SCOLMA members are invited to attend the meeting, and friends of SCOLMA who are not members are welcome to attend as observers.


To register for this Zoom meeting, please contact Sarah Rhodes, SCOLMA secretary, at by Wednesday 28 April.

SCOLMA letter on the proposed closure of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies

31 October 2020

Professor Wendy Thomson, CBE
Vice-Chancellor, University of London

Dear Professor Thomson

We in SCOLMA (the UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa) are extremely concerned to hear about plans to close the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study.

As librarians and archivists of African collections across the UK, we are all aware of the great importance of the ICWS and its collections to the African Studies field. More than this, it occupies a unique and interdisciplinary space at the intersection of Area Studies and scholarship on the British Commonwealth and empire, holding colonial and postcolonial studies in creative tension. It is also an important base for the study of Black British history in the UK.

This combining of subjects and disciplines has generated an outstandingly rich intellectual life, focused on the ever-active hub of the ICwS, which has attracted many senior scholars and gained wide international recognition. We recall, for example, many conferences and seminars (such as that which helped put Dag Hammarskjöld’s death back on the agenda, and those which investigated the emerging story of the migrated archives); publications of immense importance including the British Documents on the End of Empire series; and projects capturing crucial first-hand accounts such as the Commonwealth Oral History Project.

The Institute’s research and teaching have generated library and archives collections (now part of Senate House Library) that are extremely important in the field of African Studies. The archives include, for example, the high-profile papers of South African activist Ruth First, while the printed collections are extensive and include particularly valuable holdings of political pamphlets and ephemera as well as official publications.

We are concerned both for preservation of and access to these collections, should the Institute close, and for the continuing acquisitions and curation necessary to keep such collections current and ‘live’. Has any consideration been given to these questions? In particular, what weight can we give to assurances made now, when the collections may lack the necessary advocacy of students and scholars in the long term?

Should the ICwS close, the loss of this critical institutional base can in no way be replaced by activities planned by the Institute of Historical Research. To abolish the Institute at this time of Brexit and Black Lives Matter would seem utterly counter-productive. Similar considerations apply to the Institute of Latin American Studies, also threatened with closure. The Commonwealth, and the world at large, will become increasingly important to the UK in future.

We therefore strongly urge you to reconsider this hasty decision to close the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Yours sincerely,

(Dr) Marion Wallace
Chair, SCOLMA (the UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa)

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