March 28 2012

• Website link: archive.nelsonmandela.org

A 1.25 million US dollar (£780,000) project to digitally preserve a record of Nelson Mandela’s life is now online.

The project was first announced a year ago and the launch was announced at a news conference in Johannesburg with Mr Mandela’s archivists and Google

A display of South African President Nelson Mandela’s Digital Archive on Google in Johannesburg, South Africa (AP/Themba Hadebe)

Researchers – and anyone else – from around the world now have access to hundreds of documents, photographs and videos. The archive has been launched with more than 1,900 entries, and more are being added.

“The Mandela Digital Archive Project shows how the internet can help preserve historical heritage and make it available to the world,” Steve Crossan, director of the Google Cultural Institute, said.

Similar Google projects have focused on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Yad Vashem Holocaust materials.

Mr Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting against racist white rule, became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term. He now is officially retired and last appeared in public in July 2010.

Mr Mandela inaugurated his memory centre in 2004 as part of his charity and development foundation. The centre houses an archive and hosts conferences and other events to promote justice and reconciliation worldwide.

Verne Harris of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory said the 93-year-old does not use computers, but that archivists spoke with him about using technology to reach a global audience.

Ndelika Mandela told reporters in Johannesburg that that her grandfather’s legacy was one “the next generation, our generation in his family, can take forward”.

In one video available online, former president FW de Klerk, who shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Mr Mandela for negotiating himself out of power, recalled being asked to address parliament alongside Mr Mandela in 2004. It was the 10th anniversary of the day Mr Mandela became South Africa’s first black president. He took Mr de Klerk’s arm as MPs applauded. “It is, if you now look back, a symbol of how reconciliation can manifest itself,” Mr de Klerk said in one of a series of videos in which people reflect on encounters with Mandela.