Johannesburg: Click: South Africa's last white president speaks about his friendship with Nelson Mandela. Click: Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, two anti-apartheid icons, pose with Tutu's grandchildren. Click: Mandela offers a self-deprecating memory in a handwritten note.
At a news conference in Johannesburg yesterday, Mandela's archivists and Google said their $1.25 million project to digitally preserve a record of the anti-apartheid leader's life is now online.
The project was first announced a year ago. 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. Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting against racist 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.
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 seeing the efforts of his centre and Google realised "is invigorating."
In one video, former President F.W. de Klerk, who shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela for negotiating himself out of power, recalled being asked to address parliament alongside Mandela in 2004.
It was the 10th anniversary of the day Mandela became South Africa's first black president. Mandela took de Klerk's arm as lawmakers applauded.