n Mousaion - The effects of climate change in preserving the past and enhancing the future of legal deposit in South Africa

Volume 31, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0027-2639



With the current problems of global warming and climate change, preservationists are applying green construction principles to depositories and archival facilities (Henry 2008:3; Kim 2008; Nsibirwa 2012:73). Collections stewards, architects and engineers face design challenges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop an adaptive response to climate trends (Henry 2008:3). A 2012 study by Nsibirwa (2012) of the preservation of, and access to, legal deposit materials found that climate change can affect the buildings that are the most important source of security to the materials stored in them.

One of the objectives of the doctoral study on which the article is based, was to find out what activities and strategies are used to preserve the materials, as well as to provide a way forward in the preservation of South Africa's cultural heritage. The units of analysis in this study were four legal deposit libraries and three official publications depositories. In this study the population comprised a total of 17 members of staff: three heads of libraries and 14 librarians. The survey of legal depositories found that preservation activities are generally underdeveloped as a result of various factors, including insufficient funding. Yet, there is a greater need than ever for preservation, since predictions are that temperatures, rising seas, rainfall and flooding will continue to increase due to climate change and global warming. These conditions will lead to a shift in approaches to preservation, including looking at what poses the greatest threat when it comes to climate change. The study found that depositories may need to revert to some ancient as well as new sustainable approaches to offset the effects of climate change. The article puts forward a number of practical solutions to ensure that the environment in which materials are kept, is suitable.

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