South African Preservation and Conservation Group

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Articles in Classicfeel

Posted by sapcon on February 3, 2009

If possible, please try to get hold of the September 2008 edition of “CLASSICFEEL” the music arts, culture, lifestyle, magazine

A very visual and good article appear in the September 2008 edition of ClassicFeel (p56-59) on the Brenthurst Library, I am sure it will be of interest to our SAPCON members and others interesting in Preservation and Conservation.  

“The Brenthurst Library is the world’s largest collection of Africana material and was begun by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer.  The collection, which is today open to researchers and academics, records our diverse heritage as part of a mission to contribute positively to larger society.”

Preservation work done by Alan was also touched upon …

“The Bindery, which is housed within the library, specialises in the preservation and restoration of the Library’s collection.  Alan Jeffrey, head of the Bindery,  explains for us how he restores books, as much as it is possible to explain such a technical process to the layman.”

The article was written by Lore Watterson, Luthuli Nyathi and Camilla Lloyed but unfortunately I could not trace an electronic copy thereof on the web.

The second article in the same version of CLASSICFEEL started on p68 with the title: “Conserving the Timbuktu Manuscripts”.  Congratulations to every one that was involved in the project.  We really are proud of you.

“Timbuktu as an African intellectual centre has long dominated myth and legend on the continent, even finding its way into global popular consciousness. As Alexio Motsi and Mary Minicka discover, the Timbuktu Manuscripts Preservation Project, supported by the South African Government as a part of NEPAD, intends to preserve a tradition that Africa cannot afford to lose.’

“Neglect and rough handling, termites, sand and dust and inferior materials all work in concert to render the manuscripts very damaged and fragile in condition”

The new building in Mali which will housed the manuscripts was opened by President Kgalema Motlanthe on Saturday, 24 January 2009.

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Something interesting …

Posted by sapcon on February 3, 2009

The National Library of South Africa (Pretoria Campus) recently occupied its new building. In terms of the National Library of South Africa Act the NLSA acts as the national preservation library which also provides conservation services on a national basis. The new building offered an opportunity to make provision for new conservation facilities. A mass de-acidification system was approved as part of the new technology that would be implemented.


The significant part that acidity plays in the deterioration of paper has long been recognized. Over time acids cause paper to become brittle resulting in loss of valuable heritage resources. The Library’s book collection contains more than 500 000 original South African titles. It is estimated that as much as 60% (300 000) are in danger of future loss due to paper deterioration.    


Installation of the system is expected to take place in the next six to nine months. The NLSA is considering offering de-acidification services to other cultural institutions and clients in South and Southern Africa. Institutions that are interested or in need of de-acidification services or would like to cooperate in any way are invited and encouraged to contact us.


Douwe Drijfhout
Preservation Services
National Library of South Africa
P O Box 496
Cape Town
Tel +27 21 487-5642
Fax +27 21 423-3359

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Summary of the Symposium 2008

Posted by sapcon on September 23, 2008

The symposium gave us food for thought and a lively discussion help us to start formulating our focus points for the next 5 years.

The facilitator said that SAPCON need to look at its functions – what is our purpose – what are we going to do — have a specific focus OR have a broad function that will also touch on other organizations’ fields.  The SAPCON members suggested that although SAPCON should function as an entity of its own, it could collaborate with other organizations such as SAMA and LIASA.  SAPCON need to think how we are going to affiliate with other organizations.

SAPCON is a preservation and conservation unit, with a role to play in all domains where preservation and conservation is needed.  SAPCON deals with the actual maintenance of objects, no clash between SAMA and SAPCON, but a necessary overlap.

SAMA recently had a workshop that dealt with all the items, paper, artefacts etc.  Well organized workshop with formalized connection between two organizations. SAPCON members will also know about the workshops, affiliation can be arranged, work closely together and tap in resources and cash in on both organizations.  Networking between the organizations need to be in place.  Formalize the problem and then deal with it, to work together for a common course.

Organizations that have an interest in the field of preservation and conservation are: SARA, LIASA SAPCON, SAMA and the National Heritage sector.  Funding to support these organizations is problematic.

Not enough was being done, we have to do more to help with expertise in this field.  We need to look closely to the way forward and formalize it with specific policies in place.  How to embrace the use of technology that is available for use in this field, i.e. digitization and electronic devices used for analytical use of documents.  Need to investigate that and send the information out to members for their knowledge.

A national server is needed for the heritage section, combining resources, assessing the devide between different areas.  Identifying what should be digitized and look at the preservation of the original physical material.

The need for training, issues of career paths and basic documentation on different fields of expertise was some of the issues that all agreed upon.  The role of a conservator, what the job is all about, guidelines on that is needed.  SAPCON need to create a database of members with their specific skilled areas.

Another group suggested that the types of qualifications available, short courses on preservation, road show and workshops, need to be marketed widely so that the target audience is much wider. 

SAPCON should also think of establishing specific Interest groups, such as a group for Record Management, and have projects to raise an awareness towards preservation. Awareness towards preservation and conservation should start at school level.  An exchange system between our students and those of other countries, to work in different archives may also bring much needed knowledge and expertise into our country.

Problems that need the attention of SAPCON members were: 

  • Definite shortages on skilled workers
  • Lack of training
  • Lack of communication
  • A general policy
  • Should we become part of other organizations i.e. SAMA
  • Not enough people in SA – to do the work

A newsletter should be distibuted amongs the members.  The three regional branches should be responsible for the newsletter for a specific period of a year.  The other groups send their articles to the person who are responsible for the edition of the next period.  The periods were identified as:

  • January – April : (KZN)
  • May – August : Western Cape
  • September – November (December) : Gauteng North

AGM should describe the geographical boundaries of different regents. The total number of membership in boundaries need to be noted because the future of SAPCON depends on the members. 

Goals for the way forward –

  1. To promote the libraries, archives, museums, to the general public and government
  2. Better recognition and awareness of the importance of preservation and conservation of our cultural and intellectual heritage
  3. Look at the collections on Africa all other the world.  People in exile do have good stories to tell about their experiences in other countries

The National Library is a deposit library of the United Nations.  The National Library hosted such material collected over years, but we also need to look for SA documentation in other countries.

Members should bear in mind that our heritage is the world’s heritage, trust should be there between countries to allow our institutions to borrow some of the collections abroad and bring it to SA for display.  Our institutions can benefit from that.

The purpose of the symposium was not only to discuss the immediate way forward but to –

  • create a plan for a 5 year period.  Long-term goals can be established, but we should also have short periods build in for immediate development  
  • promote education, training …. TRAINING
  • promote “best practices” and standardization in preservation
  • encourage and facilitate participation in workshops and membership
  • press for development of solutions and methods for long-term preservation and conservation
  • promote the awareness of the issues of preservation.  We can display our own organizations as functionalities and sources of knowledge
  • write articles on our fields of expertise and publish
  • establish an office for SAPCON

The work that was done in Timbuktu should be written down in the form of a manual.  Opportunity to spread the word that we are able to do preservation in South Africa of major important collections.  Alexio asked for help in compiling the manual.   Although this is a short-term project, the National Archive will look for funding for such a project. 

It was also mentioned that to get hold of conservation journals are expensive.  SAPCON should find a way to make these journals accessible to the members. the National Library could be of help. Douwe said the NLSA will coordinate that and identify what articles will be of need and interest to the groups.  In the mean time open access electronic articles should be forwarded to the listserve.  The NLSA will compile a list on SAPCON’s website of articles as well as a member list.

Not all members have access to email and the active members should forward a hard copy to people in their group that do not have access to email.  We need to remember that some of the notifications also need to be send out by slow mail.

A task team of legal deosit libraries need to draft a strategy for SA and should also cover the issues that have been discussed at this symposium.  

Members should feel free to drop ALL their questions, no matter how simple the question is on a listserve, chat room or other electronic means.  The answers should also be published in the hard copy of the newsletter for those members who do not have access to the internet. We need to look at an open discussion forum where every problem can be discussed and dealt with. The roll that you play nationally can be one of the drivers for future development in the preservation/conservation field.

Members should contribute to the website. Let’s get the website to work for us. The information can be forwarded to SAPCON North: Ria (; KZN: Nellie; SAPCON West: Jeanine or Douwe at the National Library.  Mailing lists should be forwarded to Ria and them a compilation of the list should be spread to the other members that is responsible for the web.

We need pictures for our website i.e. pictures of your work, of your archive, museum, library – any pictures that are related to preservation and conservation of which you are the rightful owner.

Encourage the institutions to inscribe to SAPCON membership.  Is SAPCON known to all our provinces, what can be done to create more interest?  How many of the managers of institutions know about SAPCON?

It is the delegates responsibility to inform their managers and highlight the advantages of being a SAPCON member, after the symposium.  SAPCON members need to remember that information in institutions get lost because of lack of knowledge.

SAPCON should start compiling a list of all organizations (museums, libraries, archives) in South Africa and market ourselves to them. Interaction with other professional members and make them aware of the importance of preservation and conservation, make them aware of the determination to deal with the problem.

The draft documentation compiled by the facilitator will be circulated to committee members, who will forward it to the rest of the members.  The final documentation should be forwarded to SAMA and LIASA and then implemented.

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AGM Agenda and nomination form

Posted by sapcon on September 19, 2008

Please fax or e-mail your nominations to Gillian Condy Fax (012) 804 3211 or email

For more details on the SAPCON-AGM08 Agenda and Nominations form : sapcon_agm_agenda_-20081

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Symposium 2008

Posted by sapcon on September 17, 2008

The registration form, with proof of payment must be faxed to Thobeka Zulu or Takalani Munyayi at the National Archives on    012 323 5287    or emailed to or


Download and complete the symp08_registration

To view the programme, please visit this link symp08_programme

To view the media notice, please visit this link sapcon-symposium-notice

To view the map to the symposium venue, please visit this link map and map-of-central-pretoria

AGM nomination and agenda sapcon_agm_agenda_-2008 





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Posted by sapcon on September 17, 2008

Just to get you in the mood for our Pilgrims’ Rest excursion. 

We had a workshop at the National Archives of South Africa, on basic paper preservation in 2006, with Johan Maree as facilitator.  Here are some of the attendees busy with paper preservation.

If you recognize yourself on the photo please post a comment and we will do the tagging.

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Posted by sapcon on August 27, 2008



The South African Preservation and Conservation Group (SAPCON) is organising a strategic symposium to guide the group’s positioning in the heritage sector as a contributor to the preservation of the national heritage of South Africa. The Symposium will be followed by the Conservation Excursion to Pilgrims Rest where members will be undertaking professional conservation and preservation work on the museum’s collections.


SAPCON is a group of professionals who are practitioners in various disciplines of heritage preservation and conservation and would like to see the group playing a more participative role and move away from the traditional interested parties approach it had since the 1980s.


The purpose for the symposium is to get guidance from the heritage sector as to how the group can move forward and play a more meaningful role to fulfil the needs of the sector. Speakers at the Symposium will range from heritage managers and practitioners, conservators and founder members of SAPCON.


The symposium will start on the 22nd of September and will continue on the morning of the 23rd, followed by the group’s annual general meeting in the afternoon. Participants interested in the Conservation excursion will then leave for Pilgrims Rest on the morning of the 24th to come back on the 26th.


The excursion to Pilgrims Rest will be a working one and participants will be working at the museum and archive collections of the Pilgrims Rest Museum under the guidance of professional conservators and heritage experts. A separate registration will be required for the Conservation Excursion.

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