Background to the guides

The TEPC project (Transcription of Estate Papers at the Cape) and its predecessor, the TANAP transcription project (Resolutions of the Council of Policy), are making available to the public a searchable database of documents relating to180 years of political and social history of the Cape of Good Hope. This work was funded by the Dutch government.

TEPC published three guidebooks to introduce ‘beginner researchers’ to the historical resources and heritage of the Western Cape.
The guidebooks use everyday language to demystify research methods and sources.
They present research as detective work that draws on various kinds of evidence, and tell detective stories about interesting research people have done.

The first guidebook in the series, Slaves at the Cape (revised edition 2005), is about how to research slave roots and heritage.
The second guidebook, Household Inventories at the Cape (2005), looks at people’s homes and families and possessions and follows up clues about the lives of slaves.
While Places at the Cape (2008) is a guide to finding out about houses, farms, settlements and cultural landscapes of the Western Cape.

You don’t need any previous training in research or any special qualifications and it doesn’t matter at all if you never did history at school.
These books will guide you through how to begin your research, what sources you can use and where you can look for them. I
They will also tell you about how many other people – community researchers, historians, archaeologists and genealogists – have discovered stories about these topics.
Even if you are already an experienced researcher, the guides offer you something of interest.

As Stewart Harris, architectural historian and former VASSA chairman says: 

“Be curious – go and look, walk around and take time to stand and stare.
It all starts with curiosity. When you describe a street or a house or garden or a row of trees, ask yourself: what is it doing, what does it consist of?

There are three steps: The first step is to look and look again. The second step is guesswork, you need to surmise or guess why it came about. The third step is to do more research …

As a boy I became intrigued with places and how they came to be. Later on, living in Tamboerskloof, I became intrigued with Victorian houses, the rare terraces, the villas, strange Art Deco buildings in my immediate environment – and more and more curious about how Table Valley evolved.

I browsed through maps and photos of the area, looked at the beautiful books in the National Library, taking pleasure in discovery.

As my knowledge grew, I started doing guided walks in the area with people who had similar curiosity.
I shared what I knew and asked questions. I was finding little lanes and old river courses and old people know about these things, they had stories to tell about who lived where, who kept chickens at the back, how things used to be.

My contribution was that I taught people to stare …  it’s odd to stop in the street and stare, staring is rude, even architects don’t really look at that street, that house, that cabinet, that forward projecting element, carving, shape.”

How to buy printed versions of publications

EITHER come to a free VASSA talk at the Athenaeum, Newlands on the third Tuesday of a month, where these publications are on sale for cash OR email publications@vassa.org.za to check availability before you order.