Nelson Mandela Digital Archive: bringing his legacy to the masses!home

At the end of March 2012 an extensive digital archive on Mandela was launched, making available almost 2.000 entries about the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.

Many of the documents, which are stored in the Nelson Mandela Foundation Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, have never been accessible or digitalised before. They include, amongst others, images of the cell on Robben Island, in which he spent many of his 27 years in jail, smuggled letters, posters, unpublished autobiographical manuscripts, photos, videos, and thousands of handwritten documents. Content is accessible free of charge anywhere in the world and available in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. They have even thought about those who cannot decipher Mandela's handwriting, there is also a text version available.

The project, which makes it possible to "scroll" through the life of the man who received the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, as well as over 250 awards, for his struggle against apartheid and his deep commitment to defending human rights, also aims to target poor, rural communities. Key in this respect is that the centre runs outreach programmes to help communities that may not have internet connections, so that they can also experience the archive.

The $1.25m costs of the project have been donated by Google, which also sponsors a similar project on Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Holocaust archive (partnered with the Vad Yashem centre). It might come to mind that Google, whose slogan is "don't be evil" but which is often criticised for censorship and turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in countries like China, might be doing this to improve their image, but they are interesting projects nonetheless.