Google awarded a $1.25 million grant to Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, South Africa, to help preserve and give unparalleled digital access to thousands of archival documents, photographs, and audio-visual materials about the life and times of Nelson Mandela.
Internet search giant Google said it is working with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to publish thousands of never-before-seen documents belonging to the anti-apartheid icon through a $1.25 million grant given to Mandela’s foundation Tuesday.
The money will allow the foundation to scan more than 10,000 of Mandela’s personal records, including unreleased notes written during his 27 years of imprisonment for his fight against apartheid, Google spokesman Luke Mckend said. The database will be accessible for free on the Internet.
Achmat Dangor, the foundation’s chief executive, said anyone with a computer “from Timbuktu to New York” will be able to access documents about the 92-year-old Nobel peace laureate.
Much already has been written about Mandela—notably his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” which has sold millions around the world. Foundation officials said the new trove may shed further insight into his personal thoughts about South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress, in the mid-1990s. That party has since dominated South African politics.
The foundation is also appealing to foreign governments to share their documents on Mandela. Citing rumors that information from the CIA led to Mandela’s 1962 arrest, Dangor said the foundation seeks any documents that might substantiate that.
“These allegations have been the subject of much speculation for decades,” a CIA spokesperson said Tuesday.
Mckend said Google joined the project because of its capacity to preserve historical heritage and its potential use in classrooms.
“If you look at all the people talking about peace with the protests right now, there’s got to be some message we can extract from these documents,” said Daniel Lederman, Google’s director of new business development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“Google wants to help bring the world’s historical heritage online, and the internet offers new ways to preserve and share information. Our grants to the Nelson Mandela Centre and to the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre will facilitate new digital archives for South Africa’s past, giving the global public an unprecedented opportunity to engage with the history of some of the most extraordinary leaders of our time. We are also delighted to be announcing additional grants which will help many more people across South Africa and Africa access the internet and benefit from access to information.”