A new digital archive was launched on Friday by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory to allow greater public access to the archives of the global icon who became the first democratically-elected president of South Africa after serving 27 years as a political prisoner under the white minority apartheid regime.
Razia Saleh, Head of Archive and Research at the centre, explained that the closure of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (NMCM) for almost two years due to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions had given the team time to come up with ideas to widen access to the resources, which have been physically available in the past.
“It gave us time to reflect on our work and decide what we need to do differently and we have decided that the archival aspect of the Centre of Memory at the Nelson Mandela Foundation is really hidden and nobody really knows much about it.
“So, we went on a rebranding exercise and this is what we are launching today,” she said.
Saleh said that the archives at the NMCM have been in place since 2004, but the new digital archive allows access in a much more visible way.
Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation Sello Hatang said that access to archives was critical if the past has to be remembered.
“Over the years, we have documented material, collected them, processed them. With paper-based materials, we have deacidified them and digitised them,” Hatang said, adding that the process was funded by the US and done by the National Library of South Africa to extend the life of aging documents by another 200 years.
Hatang said that he had been particularly impressed by a personal letter in the archive that Mandela had written to his two young daughters, Zindzi and Zenani, in his seventh year of imprisonment, when 20 more such years were ahead.
“’Don’t worry about me now – I’m happy, I’m well, full of strength and hope’, Madiba had written,” Hatang said.
The archives at the centre contain a wide range of artefacts related to the leader, including many documents in his own meticulous handwriting; as well as a vast amount of his personal memorabilia, including the original Nobel Peace Prize certificate which he and his predecessor, president F W de Klerk jointly received in 1993.
Known as ACOM (Archive at the Centre of Memory), the website has been designed to be user friendly, especially for youth. It can be accessed at archive.nelsonmandela.org.
(With inputs from PTI)