National English Literary Museum

The National English Literary Museum (NELM) is one of South Africa’s literary treasures. Tucked away in the university town of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, NELM collects all creative writing by southern African authors who write in English, and in the following genres: novels, short stories, plays, essays, poetry, theatre, television and film scripts, autobiography, travel, letters, memoirs and diaries. Critical writing on the authors and their works is also collected, as well as writings on related subjects such as literary history, censorship and literary awards. These materials are collected in all formats: books, study guides, theses, literary manuscripts, press clippings and audio-visual material.

Mission: National English Literary Museum is to maintain and extend the nation's leading collection of southern African English literary heritage and to serve as a source of expertise through exemplary research, conservation, exhibitions and public programmes

Vision:  National English Literary Museum  champions the cause of the humane values such as tolerance, acceptance and inclusivity so nobly and memorably embodied in our literature.  All South Africans who write creatively and imaginatively in English have a place in our museum, irrespective of their origin, mother tongue, personal convictions or age.  Furthermore, all South Africans appreciate the significance of this body of work and its contribution to world literature

Functions: NELM's principal functions are to collect and conserve material evidence pertaining to this literature, to publicise and popularise it, and to provide all sections of the reading public, both locally and abroad, with the means of access to it.

The Museum started in 1972 as a collection of documents and has grown, over the years, into a national resource funded principally by the Central Government, and was declared cultural institution on 18 April 1980.  NELM currently falls under the Cultural Institutions Act 119 (1998).

The artefacts of the Museum are literary - the imaginative and creative writings in English of southern African writers, regardless of their mother tongue. There are three chief collections from the past and present

  • Where possible we keep unpublished manuscripts and drafts as well as proofs, diaries, and private correspondence;

  • We collect all genres of creative or imaginative writing published by Southern African authors: poetry, plays, novels, short stories, diaries, memoirs, journals and travelogues, including books for children;

  • Critical matter about Southern African authors - their lives, words and works recorded in the daily press and in learned journals.

These collections are physically present for anyone to consult, and the bibliographic information is also accessible in separate electronic databases.

NELM collects and conserves material, and also aims to serve all reading communities.

Operating hours:

Monday to Friday, 08h30 - 13h00, 14h00 - 16h30



87 Beaufort Street


Tel: +27 (0) 46 622 7042

Eastern Cape