KCAL Manuscripts Collection

Overview of the Manuscripts Collection  



1762 - 2000

Most collections are open to researchers without restriction.

Campbell Collections is in the process of digitising the Manuscript Inventories. The Manuscripts themselves are available for perusal at:

Campbell Collections
220 Gladys Mazibuko (formerly Marriott) Road, Durban 4001
Library Enquiries: (031) 260 1710
Email: campbellcollections@ukzn.ac.za


Establishment of the collection by Killie Campbell (1881 - 1965):


According to the available sources, and judging by an assessment of the "founding collection", Killie Campbell's purpose in gathering manuscripts was to preserve for posterity as wide a range as was available of manuscript records of what can be loosely described as the history of Zululand and Natal. She was motivated partly by the belief that if she did not move swiftly to collect these records they would be irretrievably lost.

Consequently the boundaries of her collection were wide, and she was willing to include any items that threw light on the development not only of present-day KwaZulu-Natal, but also of the regions beyond, such as the eastern Cape and Zimbabwe. Thus fragments of homely letters written by obscure colonial settlers were as warmly welcomed as the more formal records of missionaries or politicians.

It is interesting to note that in her drive to collect as much information as possible about her region, Killie Campbell herself contributed to the creation of two important collections which today form an integral part of the manuscripts collection.

The first of these contains the scripts submitted by entrants in three essay competitions run by Killie Campbell between 1912 and 1950, the first in association with her father Marshall Campbell. For obvious reasons it had been possible to collect only relatively few manuscripts reflecting Zulu life and history, so these essays were an early attempt to build up a body of evidence based on oral tradition.

The second is the collected correspondence of Killie Campbell with a wide range of correspondents, with whom she communicated in her attempts to acquire both manuscripts and surviving oral testimony reflecting the region.This very mixed bag of letters was gathered together and indexed after her death.

No overview of Killie Campbell's manuscript collection would be complete without a reference to the papers of James Stuart , whose career as a magistrate in Zululand and Natal during the early years of the 20th Century enabled him to explore and record verbatim, in scores of notebooks, the oral tradition of hundreds of Zulu informants whom he interviewed. After the death of James Stuart in 1942, the collection was sold by his widow to Killie Campbell, who by this time had decided to bequeath her library to the University of KwaZulu-Natal as a research resource, and who presciently realised the enormous significance of the James Stuart Papers as a vital repository of information about pre-colonial Natal and Zululand.

Killie Campbell founded the eclectic manuscript collection which forms part of the library which bears her name with the intention of facilitating historical and social research. By the time of her death in 1965 many contemporary writers on the history of the KwaZulu-Natal region had acknowledged their indebtedness to her collection, more than justifying this aspect of her life's work.

Development of the manuscripts collection since 1965:

After the University of KwaZulu Natal took over the Campbell Collections in 1965 there was a period of adjustment as the administration of this formerly privately run library was modified to conform with standard library routines and practices.

Because of the very nature of the unique and relatively rare material which goes to form a manuscripts collection, it was some time before a pattern of collection building emerged, and indeed it is perhaps always possible to see a measure of serendipity playing its part in the development of the manuscripts section of the library over the years.

Some items came into the possession of the Campbell Collections completely spontaneously, such as the massive archive of the Natal Land and Colonization Company, which reflects the activities of a business which traded in land, rented property to a range of tenants in the colony and finally became an urban property developer, over a period of nearly a century.

Other items were acquired by purchase, such as the Evelyn Wood Papers, which reflect an important section of the colony's military and social history, placing it squarely in the context of British imperial politics.

There was a definite trend to acquire material related to the social trends in South Africa during the seventies and eighties, some of it produced by organisations which were vehemently opposed to the then government: the Killie Campbell Africana Library was regarded by some as a secure repository for such documents, as it was linked to a university which itself was overtly opposed to apartheid. Such collections include the papers of the Black Sash (Natal Coastal Region), the Surplus People Project and the Abortion Reform Action Group.

Moreover, following Killie Campbell's tradition of collecting oral testimonies, the Campbell Collections participated in an Oral History Project undertaken during the 1980's, to interview and capture the evidence of a range of people living in the Durban functional region. The collection of taped interviews and transcripts resulting from this project are available with indexes in the Killie Campbell Library and have proved to be of considerable research value.

During the nineties the imperative to reflect the increasing emphasis on "green" movements led to the seeking out of collections such as the papers of Dr Ian Player, and of the Wilderness Leadership School. These collections complemented the association of the Campbell family in earlier times with big game hunting, and with their later interest in conservation as exemplified by William A Campbell's membership of the National Parks Board.

Since the introduction of the new South African Constitution a formerly untapped source of manuscripts has become available, as organisations which would not formerly entrust their records to a library are now open to negotiation about depositing their archives in the Killie Campbell Africana Library. Examples of such new acquisitions are the records of the Congress of South African Writers and the Culture and Working Life Project which was an initiative of the Department of Sociology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.


As this very brief overview indicates, the range of social, political, economic and cultural sources represented in the manuscripts collection of the Killie Campbell Africana Library is exceptionally wide. Proof of its value as a research resource is found in the acknowledgement of its holdings in the bibliographies of nearly every major work on the history of the Natal region published both in South Africa and abroad over the last thirty years. It is hoped that the exposure of this fine collection via the internet will make its resources even more widely known.