Published: 09 September 2016
Members of the Pearly Beach Book Club were privileged to visit the library in the Houses of Parliament recently.
This was due to an invitation by Ingrid Henrici, who is in charge of the rare book collection.
She offered that her dad, Gerald, chauffeured the group to Cape Town.
Ingrid met the group on the steps of the original building and gave them a brief history of the three buildings and surrounding area.
The floors are inlaid in marble mosaics and were of great interest to their patchwork friends.
They saw where the 1910 treaty was signed when South Africa became a union and then went through to the main library.
This was established for the use of Members of Parliament, Ministers, staff and students.
It is located on the main floor and consists of a vast collection of law books, periodicals and newspapers. The HANSARDS are also kept there.
Club members were in awe on how well everything is preserved and maintained.
One of the sections of the library is assigned to old and rare books, for which Ingrid is responsible.
This department is located in the basement and it is kept under controlled conditions to preserve this very valuable collection, which consists of artworks, maps, photographs, other materials and books – some printed as early as the 1500’s.
A few of the old books were displayed in glass cases and it is very unreal to believe that these books, letters or other documents were actually handled by people living hundreds of years ago!
There also are private collections donated to the library, which contain the Mendelsohn inheritance, the Jardine collection, Africana and books on the Anglo Boer War and other important historical events.
The books in Ingrid’s department are being digitalized. They went to the lower basement where several people were scanning the books page by page on special double page scanners.
Ingrid accompanied the group and on the way back to the main entrance, they walked through the rest of the buildings and saw the previous Room of Assembly as well as the National Assembly, which can be seen on television when parliament is in session.
They also saw the paintings and photographs of recent historical moments and figures.
There is a tapestry over a kilometer length, done by women from the eastern Cape depicting their history from even before the time of Jan van Riebeeck. It was initiated by Dr Carol hofmeyer and called the “Keiskamma Tapestry”, done in embroidery and beadwork.
It was a wonderful experience and opportunity for these club members to visit Parliament and to see where this remarkable woman works and how she handles this great responsibility.