Nelson Mandela Foundation

UN Women visit the Nelson Mandela archive
(Image: Nelson Mandela Foundation)
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The Nelson Mandela Foundation has in its custody an archive of the life and times, works and writings of its Founder, the late Nelson Mandela. The physical collections include the handwritten papers, official records and unique artefacts from the personal archive of Nelson Mandela in addition to records from the Office of Nelson Mandela after his retirement as President of South Africa in 1999, and the records of related significant organisations and individuals. It is the NMF’s imperative to document this vast resource, facilitate access to it, and promote its preservation and use.

Extensive measures have been undertaken to preserve the physical collections to international standards.  Purpose built archival facilities were created with customised temperature, relative humidity, light levels, and air quality controls with individual collection materials already having undergone strict archival processes such as identification, cataloguing, deacidification, and now digitisation.

The Mandela archive is fragmented and scattered all over the world in various places. The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory does not seek to gather all of this under its roof. Instead, the focus is to document where it is and to enter into partnerships to ensure that it is preserved and accessible. Consult the Mandela Materials database, which is a guide to the Mandela archive located elsewhere.

However, a small amount has been collected since the establishment of the Centre of Memory in 2004, which has been categorised into the following archive groups and special collections:

Archive Room © Nelson Mandela Foundation 3

Archive groups

Archival Material © Nelson Mandela Foundation Blue Media

Special collections

From the archive groups above and through specific donations, these special collections have been created:

  • The Photograph Collection – see document on sources
  • The Sound and Video Collection – see document on sources
  • The Poster Collection
  • The Ephemera Collection
  • The Reference Collection. This includes the following:
    • Anthony Sampson
    • Foreign language books
    • Autograph books
    • Reference books
    • Audiovisual autograph books
    • Audiovisual references
    • Audiovisual tributes

As these records and collections are organised and processed, the finding aids to them will be made available. This is a work in progress and we would like to hear from you if you have additional information to support our collections work.

Archive Room © Nelson Mandela Foundation 2

Access to the archives

The Nelson Mandela Foundation has a Reading Room where researchers can access valuable historical documents from the archive.

The Reading Room is located at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm).

Please make an appointment first to ensure that you will be assisted.

Email:, and remember to fill in the researcher registration form and email it to us.

Secure lockers are located behind reception. Coats, parcels, briefcases, computer bags, pens and other similar belongings must be locked in these. Keys have been provided for you to keep for the duration of your visit.

The following is NOT allowed in the Reading Room

  • All food, beverages and sweets
  • Smoking
  • Pens, markers, highlighters and post-it notes
  • Scanning, filming and copying with your own equipment

Please refer to the rules and guidelines when using the archives.