Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Explore Mandela's archives online

Last year we announced a $1.25 million grant to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory to help conserve and digitize thousands of archival documents, photographs and videos about Nelson Mandela. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (NMCM) is committed to documenting the life and times of one of the world's greatest statesmen and dispersion his story to promote social justice throughout the world.

Today, the Mandela archive has become a actuality. Along with historians, educationalists, researchers, activists and many others around the world, you can access a wealth of information and knowledge about the life and inheritance of this extraordinary African leader. The new online multimedia archive includes Mandela’s correspondence with family, comrades and friends, diaries written during his 27 years of imprisonment, and notes he made while leading the discussions that ended apartheid in South Africa. The archive will also include the earliest-known photo of Mr. Mandela and never-before seen drafts of Mr. Mandela's manuscripts for the follow-up to his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.

We’ve worked closely with the NMCM to create an interactive online experience which we hope will motivate you as much as us. You can search and browse the archives to discover different parts of Mandela’s life and work in depth: Early Life, Prison Years, Presidential Years, and Retirement, Books for Mandela, Young People and My Moments with a Legend.

For example, you might be concerned in Nelson Mandela’s personal memories of the time he was incarcerated and click into the Prison Years exhibit. You can immediately see a curate set of materials threaded together into a broader narrative. These take in handwritten notes on his desk calendars, which show, for example, that he met President F.W. De Klerk for the first time on December 13, 1989 for two and a half hours in prison; the Warrants of Committal issued by the Supreme Court which sent him to prison; the earliest known photo of Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island circa 1971; and a personal letter written from prison in 1963 to his daughters, Zeni and Zindzi, after their mother was arrested, absolute with transcript.

From there, you might want to see all the letters held by the records, and click “See more” in the letters category, where you can find out all personal letters or use the time filter to explore his diaries and calendars written between 1988 and 1998, where you can see that in the last page of the last diary, he met with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda to swap over ideas about the situation in northern Uganda. If you were a researcher, you can search through various fragments of Madiba’s memory that narrate to Ahmed Kathrada, his long-time comrade, politician and anti-apartheid activist, where you can find photos, videos, manuscripts and letters that relate to him.

Finally, by clicking into the exhibit, My Moments with a Legend, you can go beyond Madiba’s personal materials to get a diverse viewpoint through photos, videos and stories, via the memories of people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, F.W. De Klerk and Nomfundo Walaza, a community worker.

The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive project is a proposal by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the Google Cultural Institute, which helps to protect and promote our diverse cultural and historical heritage. Some of our other initiatives include the Art Project, digitizing the Dead Sea Scrolls and bringing the Yad Vashem Holocaust materials online.

You can start exploring the Nelson Mandela archive right now at We hope you’ll be enthused by this influential leader—the face of South Africa’s transition to democracy.

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