Press Release - English

Mandela archive goes live on the web

Google and Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory launch the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project  

Archives include never-seen sequel manuscripts to Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom autobiography

27 March 2012 -  Google and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (NMCM) announced today that the new Nelson Mandela Digital Archive is now live on the web, freely accessible to the global public. Google gave a $1.25m [8.6 million rand] grant to the Johannesburg-based NMCM in 2011 to help preserve and digitize thousands of archival documents, photographs and videos about Mr Mandela. Today, the digital exhibition has become a reality.

Along with historians, educationalists, researchers and activists, users from around the world now have access to extensive information about the life and legacy of this extraordinary African statesman.  The new online multimedia archive includes Mr 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 photograph of Mr. Mandela, rare images of his cell on Robben Island in the 1970s,  and never-seen drafts of Mr. Mandela's manuscripts for the sequel to his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom.”

“It is invigorating to see our combined efforts become a reality,” said Verne Harris from the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. “This digital initiative will make it possible for us to reach the full spectrum of our stakeholders, from the global elite to systemically disadvantaged South Africans. Visitors can search and browse the archives to explore different parts of Mr Mandela’s life and work in depth: Early Life, Prison Years, Presidential Years, Retirement, Books for Mandela, Young People, and My Moments with a Legend.”

Steve Crossan, Director of the Google Cultural Institute said:
“The Mandela Digital Archive Project shows how the Interneshows how the Internet can help preserve historical heritage and make it available to the world.  We’ve worked closely with the NMCM to create an interactive online experience with powerful search and browsing tools, so that users can explore Mr Mandela’s inspiring life story.”

“The Archive currently includes over 1900 unique images, documents and videos, and will grow over time,” said Luke Mckend, Country Manager for Google South Africa.  “South Africans from all walks of life can now engage with important parts of our country’s history.  For example, reading handwritten pages of a letter smuggled from Robben Island in 1977, or seeing Warrant documents that sent Mandela to jail first for 5 years and then for life.”

The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive project is an initiative by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the Google Cultural Institute.  With a team of dedicated Googlers around the world, the Cultural Institute builds tools to preserve cultural heritage and make it accessible worldwide. Other projects include showcasing the Dead Sea Scrolls, presenting thousands of works of art online through the Art Project, and the digitisation of the the Yad Vashem Holocaust materials.

To start exploring the Nelson Mandela archive visit:


Information for Editors
  • Images and press releases in English, Zulu and Afrikaans can be found on Google’s press site - or simply contact below.
  • See our blogpost on the Google Africa Blog
  • About the Technology: The technology used for the Mandela Archive allows for hosting of mixed-media material, making those materials searchable and browsable, and also allows curators to curate the materials into exhibits.  It uses Google Search, Google+ Photos for image serving, and YouTube for video streaming and serving. We are continously improving our technology based on our experience with digitisation projects around the world.
  • For an example of how users might explore the archive: You might be interested in Nelson Mandela’s personal memories of the time he was incarcerated and click into the Prison Years exhibit. You can immediately see a curated set of materials threaded together into a broader narrative. Included are: 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 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.
  • Press Contacts:
    • Nelson Mandela Foundation: Sello Hatang,, +27 (0) 11 547 5600
    • Google Cultural Institute Press Office:
    • Google South Africa: Shannon Atherfold, africapractice,, +27 (0)11 022 6564

About the Google Cultural Institute
With a team of dedicated Googlers around the world, the Cultural Institute builds tools to preserve cultural heritage and make it accessible worldwide. Other projects include showcasing the Dead Sea Scrolls, presenting thousands of works of art online through the Art Project, and the digitisation of the the Yad Vashem Holocaust materials.  Google’s innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major global markets.  Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more information, visit and our Google Africa Blog:  You can also follow Google's Africa team on Twitter:

About the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory delivers the core-work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation established in 1999 to support its Founder’s ongoing engagement in worthy causes on his retirement as President of South Africa. The Foundation is registered as a trust, with its board of trustees comprising prominent South Africans selected by the Founder.
The Centre of Memory was inaugurated by Nelson Mandela on 21 September 2004, and endorsed as the core work of the Foundation in 2006. The Centre focuses on three areas of work: the Life and Time of Nelson Mandela, Dialogue for Social Justice and Nelson Mandela International Day.

Digital Archives: My Moment with a Legend

Inauguration Day

Warrant of Committal 1962 

Nelson Mandela's Cell 1977

Headtown Photograph 1938
(Earliest known image)