Our archive is a gathering point for materials pertaining to the making of South Africa’s Constitution. This ever-growing body of collections aims to offer researchers, students and the public searchable online access to reference materials which illustrate the myriad stages and processes of negotiation which culminated in the adoption of South Africa’s Constitution.

Core materials include the official collections from the National Archive and Record Services of South Africa (NARSSA), as well as those from institutions and individuals who participated in critical historical events in our history. These include landmark events such as the adoption of the Freedom Charter at Kliptown in 1955, the coming together of 19 parties at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) in 1991, the behind-the-scenes working of the Constitutional Assembly, and the debates and discussions relating to the establishment of the Constitutional Court. Our archive also houses material pertaining to the heritage site of Constitution Hill.

Visit the Archive

Why

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The documents in our collections lend texture, nuance, and depth to the intellectual, legal, and activist history that birthed and now sustains our Constitution. They also reflect more intimate accounts of how South Africans, past and present, confronted and challenged injustice in the areas of law, family and community life, land, women’s issues, identity, creativity, and indeed constitution-making.

Along with the stories told on other sections of this virtual platform, our archive aims to enable and facilitate a space for knowledge-generation, learning, and engaging with the history and significance of the Constitution as the guidepost of South African democracy. In combination, these activities honour the past, while ensuring the archive is a vital contemporary actor.

How

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The Constitution Hill Trust collaborates with national and local institutions to identify and selectively digitise relevant primary source materials that are either inaccessible or in poor condition. To date, we have identified 462 collections from 22 archival institutions. We have also been on a concerted campaign to bring to light hidden jewels sitting in dusty boxes in people’s garages and storerooms.

Founding Collections

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The Constitution Hill Trust archival team, with the support of partners, digitization professionals and volunteers, continues to catalogue, inventorise and digitise historical materials. The digitisation project has ensured the preservation and stabilization of founding documents to prevent deterioration. When it comes to audio tapes and multimedia, old analogue formats are being converted, rendering them accessible in the contemporary digital realm.

The digitisation project ensures greater accessibility to collections, which would otherwise only be accessible physically and during office hours. It also facilitates that the materials can be shared for exhibitions, educational programmes, and discussions, ensuring that our archival material has an active role in contemporary debate and discourse.

In the same way that other mature democracies protect, cherish, and display their founding documents, we are hoping to elevate the status, promote the accessibility, and ensure the continuing relevance of these core documents which tell of the process of making South Africa’s constitutional democracy.