Bits and pieces aka varia

Bits and pieces aka varia
I’m immensely drawn to the ‘Varia’ or miscellaneous box or boxes at the end of most archive collections in South Africa. These tend to hold the detritus that doesn’t fit anywhere else, and were like this originally, rather than being the creation of archivists. They convey a hand stuffing things to the back of drawers, rather than neatly filing collections of letters or other papers. And there is no predicting what will be found; it could be old envelopes, bits of invoices, buttons and a few drawing pens; it could also be letters or diaries or maps or guidebooks. These are all things which have lurked at the ends of collections worked on over the last few years. The most exciting? Some previously unknown short writings by Mary Moffat which are a cross between a letter, an appointment book and a diary; among a pile of invoices in the Rhodes Papers, a summation of how much the Jameson Raid cost; and tallies and inventories and similar counts of people, wages, cattle in the Forbes Varia. But really, all of them are exciting because they reference the most ordinary and quotidian parts of everyday life.

Last updated: 5 December 2019


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