Following a year-long effort, the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project is now available online. The new interactive multimedia archive documents the South African leader's life, personal memories and commitment to social justice.
The project is an initiative of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (NMCM) and the Google Cultural Institute, which aims to help preserve and promote culture on the Internet. Google received a $1.25 million grant to collaborate with NMCM on the project last March and announced the launch of the archive on Tuesday.
The digital archive project is a completely interactive experience. Users can navigate through pictures, video and text to learn more about Nelson Mandela and the different aspects of his life.
The digitization is an ongoing project, and thus far, the archives are divided into seven categories: Early Life, Prison Years, Presidential Years, Retirement, Books for Mandela, Young People and My Moments with a Legend. The first four categories relate to certain moments in his life, the latter three concern his relationships with other people and how his personality cultivated those relationships.
"Books for Mandela," for example, shows the different books he received as gifts a common gift indeed, given his love of reading and the notes he received along with them. "Young People" and "My Moments with a Legend" show how his personality and commitment to social justice was an inspiration to many he encountered, particularly children, whom he believes are the foundation of the future.
"Books for Mandela" is not the only category featuring primary sources. Within each of these categories is a vast amount of information, including everything from letters to photographs to church membership cards. In addition to these personal documents, biographical information is available to provide context to these primary sources.
Everything is set up to link to even more information, so audiences can see, for example, the source of a quotation, or learn more about the process Mandela went through in writing his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom.
The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive project comes after the digitization of Albert Einstein's archives, which provides audiences with an interactive experience of the scientist's life. Both projects also coincide with the release of a new open-source timeline tool, available for anyone on the internet to use and incorporate into a site. And let's not forget about Facebook's Timeline a feature which everyone from politicians to companies to even the U.S. military are using to brand themselves, highlight the special moments in their lives and engage with audiences in a more visual, interactive way.
What do you think of all these timelines and digital archives? Are they changing the way people are documenting history and therefore understanding history?