Close-up of the features on the copper doors of the Iziko Social History Centre.  

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Iziko Social History Centre

After two and a half years of extensive building and renovation work, the National Mutual Building on Church Square has been transformed into the Iziko Social History Centre. The building houses the reserve collections and library of the Social History Collections Department of Iziko Museums of Cape Town. The building programme, funded by the Department of Public Works, comprised the demolition of a three-storey building on Plein Street, and replacement with a new multi-level structure, comprising state-of-the-art accessible collections, storage areas, and specialised laboratories, which are all linked to the older, historic section of the building which faces onto Church Square. The older part was refurbished, with most original surfaces and fittings preserved and retained, such as the decorative copper doors facing onto the Square. Staff of the Social History Collections Department will relocated to the new building during the latter months of 2008, with the collections moving in the months thereafter.

The Social History Collections Library fills a prime position in the renovated building, in the old banking hall behind the central entrance, on the ground floor. In their Heritage Impact Assessment Report, Stephan Townsend and Ashley Lillie described the banking hall or main reception space as the most significant feature of the interior of the old building. The area has an impressive domed skylight and highly decorative ceiling. It was created by architects John Perry & WJ Delbridge during the early 1930s, when alterations and extensions took place to the original, much smaller building, which was designed by Herbert Baker and Francis Masey early in the 20th century.

The library at the renovated Iziko Social History Resource Centre will continue to act as a art collections library, welcoming members of the public and students to consult its books and magazines on a multitude of subjects. Added features will be an area for special book collections and an audio-visual facility.


Esther Esmyol
Tel.: +27 (0)21 461 3375.