Mandela archives, letters and notes go online

Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:36am EDT
 
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By Jon Herskovitz

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Thousands of letters, photographs and documents relating to former South African President Nelson Mandela went online on Tuesday in a project aimed at increasing access to the archives which detail his long walk to freedom.

Items including letters Mandela wrote to his family that were smuggled out of prison, his Methodist church membership card from about 80 years ago and hand-written diaries have been digitized and laid out on a website (archive.nelsonmandela.org) designed to look like a museum exhibit.

"The one thing that it does immediately is make a much sought-after legacy available to the world," said Achmat Dangor, the chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The project, with an initial cost of $3 million, was put together by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the Google Cultural Institute.

It is a first for Internet giant Google, which has made sure the material is open to all and original copyright holders keep their rights. Google is planning to use this project as a springboard to bring more content on line from other historical figures of the 20th century.

Google has been criticized for trying to use its technological might to wall off material from rivals.

"You can interact with the content. You can search the content. Although we have mimicked the museum experience, we are now in a place where we think we have augmented the experience,' said Mark Yoshitake, who leads project management for the Google Cultural Institute.

Sections such as "Presidential Years" include photos with links to videos, text, personal notes and testimonials laid out for use with typical computers and tablets.   Continued...

 
A visitor looks at the online Nelson Mandela Digital Archive on a computer screen during its launch at the Nelson Mandela foundation in Johannesburg, March 27, 2012. Thousands of letters, photographs and documents relating to former South African President Mandela went online on Tuesday in a project to increase access to archives on the life of the global human rights icon. Items including letters Mandela wrote to his family and smuggled out of prison, his Methodist church membership card from about 80 years ago and hand-written diaries have been digitised and laid out in a site designed to look like museum exhibits at archive.nelsonmandela.org. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko