Featured Research

Not just old stuff in boxes - Special Collections in the Margaret Smith Library

Farol Pinda, Nangata, in the province of Nampula in Mozambique Farol Pinda c.1950


The Special Collections in the Margaret Smith Library include a number of unique items relating to the JLB Smith Institute (1980-2001). The largest collection is, not surprisingly, on the coelacanth. We also have collections of personal and research material relating to leading personalities in marine and freshwater ichthyology at the time, as well as smaller series of documents from associations such as the Cape Piscatorial Society. Collections have been given a preliminary sort and an inventory is being completed. Through description of items in these collections, and making them available for research, we intend to complement the library holdings of print sources on ichthyology.

An example of this kind of archival material is a donation from Australia. As well as an author’s presentation copy (#94) of JLB Smith's Old Fourlegs - “with compliments to AT Wood, Esq” - there are letters and photographs from JLB Smith to AT Wood, dating from the 1950s.

Through additional material such as this, we are able to highlight unexpectedly certain sections of the Special Collections to inform scientific research. We aim to create an interactive Special Collections website, where both scientists and the public will be able to partner with us in contributing to biodiversity heritage in South Africa, by adding value to these online and physical records of the Institute’s history and culture. 

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Maditaba Meltaf and Sally Schramm checking JLB Smith's diaries Maditaba Meltaf scanning archival material Roger Bills checking specimens against the diaries