Google makes it Possible to Explore Nelson Mandela’s archives online

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Would you like to know about the life and legacy of the extraordinary African leader, Nelson Mandela?

Last year Google announced to offered a $1.25 million (ZAR 8,6 million rand) grant to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory to help preserve and digitize thousands of archival documents, photographs and videos about Nelson Mandela.  The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (NMCM), based in Johannesburg, South Africa, is committed to documenting the life and times of one of the world’s greatest statesmen and spreading his story to promote social justice throughout the world.

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Nelson mandelaToday, the Mandela archive has become a reality.  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 legacy 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 negotiations 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 sequel to his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.

Google have worked closely with the NMCM to create an interactive online experience which they hope will inspire Africans and the entire world.

You can search and browse the archives to explore different parts of Mandela’s life and work in depth: from Early Life, Prison Years, Presidential Years, Retirement, Books for Mandela, Young People and My Moments with a Legend.

For example, you might be interested in Nelson Mandela’s personal memories of the time he was incarcerated and click into the PrisonYears exhibit. You can immediately see a curated set of materials threaded together into a broader narrative. Included are: handwritten notes on his deskcalendars, 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 Commital 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, complete with transcript.

From there, you might want to see all the letters held by the archive, and click ‘See more’ in the letters category, where you can discover 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 exchange ideas about the situation in northern Uganda.

If you were a researcher, you can search through various fragments of Madiba’s memory that relate 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 perspective 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 an initiative by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the Google Cultural Institute which helps to preserve and promote our diverse cultural and historical heritage.

You can start exploring the archive of this influential leader—the face of South Africa’s transition to democracy, Nelson Mandela at

Information Source:

Google Africa and

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