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The Wilcocks Fire: Bill Nasson and Sandra Swart Describe their Personal Losses

Riding HighThe War for South AfricaStephanie Nieuwoudt spoke to members of the Stellenbosch University’s Department of History about rebuilding of the Wilcock Building, partially destroyed in a fire in December 2010. Many of the department’s staff members, notably Sandra Swart (Riding High) and Bill Nasson (The War for South Africa), experienced profound personal loss as their research, books and other items they’d collected over the years went up in flames:

The irony cannot be ignored. A fire razed the Department where memories, history and remembering are dealt with, perhaps arguably, more intensely than at any other department at the University. In the publication, Historia (56, 2 November 2011), Prof Wessel Visser writes that the department of history at a university is the archetypal preserver of historical inheritance.

The loss of was huge. Precious old maps of the Cape Colony disappeared along with the entire library of the Department. But here were also personal losses. Profs Bill Nasson and Sandra Swart lost all their books, personal documents and a number of other personal belongings. Prof Albert Grundlingh, Chair of the Department, lost 40% of his library.

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