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HHead to the Kimberley Africana Library in Northern Cape province for one of the finest collections of Africana in the world. It’s also a peek back in time, as the library is kept the way it was 100 years ago, complete with leather chairs and wooden ladders to reach the upper shelves. This facility in Kimberley – famed as ‘the Diamond City’ – houses about 14 000 books, 640 manuscripts and 12 000 photographs.
Included in the collection are early printed editions of African indigenous languages (San, Setswana, isiZulu, isiXhosa), early books related to diamond mining and records dating back to the first diamond rush in the 1870s, newspapers from the 1870s and books by early European travellers in the region, and books and maps from the South African War of 1899-1902 (formerly known as the Second Anglo-Boer War).
An intriguing collection of photographs is also available, featuring early diamond discoveries, the South African War, the social history of the inhabitants of southern Africa, the Siege of Kimberley and Northern Cape architecture.
The librarians, headed by Shirley James, who has been in the Kimberley library services for many years, are highly professional, well informed and helpful. ‘We get plenty of researchers, authors, journalists and academics from all over the world,’ James explains. ‘It is best to phone a week or more in advance so that we can prepare for you and present you with all the information that interests you on your arrival.’
Spontaneous visits are also accommodated, though.
The library has a wonderful atmosphere, which you will absorb as you sit in the gracious old reading rooms.
The original building was opened in 1887 as Kimberley’s first public library. It was the product of new wealth in South Africa, which came about after the discovery of diamonds in Kimberley in 1871.
The library was restored and refurbished between 1984 and 1986 as an exclusively Africana research library, open to all researchers.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Kimberley Africana Library
Tel: +27 (0)53 830 6247
How to get here
The Kimberley Africana Library is in the centre of Kimberley, opposite the Kimberley Club.
Best time to visit
Try to phone at least a week ahead of your visit so that the librarians can prepare for you. The library is open weekdays only, between 8h00-12h45 and 13h30-16h30. Northern Cape is an all-year destination, but from November to March it can get extremely hot.
Around the area
There are several attractions in the historic town of Kimberley. Visit the Big Hole and the McGregor Museum if you can.
Tours to do
You could take a battlefields tour, city tour, diamond fields tour or ghost tour. The Wildebeestkuil Rock Art Centre is nearby. Enquire at Kimberley Tourism.
What will it cost
The library relies on donations.
Length of stay
Your research requirements will dictate this. No time limit is imposed by the library.
Where to stay
Kimberley has a range of hotels and guesthouses. The Kimberley Club is an excellent choice, situated across the road from the library. It was built in the 1880s and offers Victorian luxury.