In March 2011, Google donated $1.25 million to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory to help digitize the South African leader’s archives. One year later, the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive is complete.

The grant allowed the Johannesburg-based NGO to take thousands of documents, photos, and videos from Mandela’s life and put them online. The archives, accessible via, offer a comprehensive look at the life of legendary leader, including correspondence with family and friends, diaries from his 27 years in prison, and notes recorded during negotiations that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Among some of the highlights in the archives are the earliest-known photo of Mandela and drafts from the sequel to his autobiography.

The archives divide his life into different eras and topical sections: early years, prison years, presidential years, retirement, books for Mandela, young people, and my moments with a legend. Each takes a curated look at a related part of his life.

Chapter one: Nelson Mandela’s early years.

  • Part one:

  • Part two:

Chapter two: Nelson Mandela’s life in prison.

Chapter three: Nelson Mandela’s presidential years.

You can immediately see a curated set of materials threaded together into a broader narrative,” Mark Yoshitake, a product manager with the Google Cultural Institute, wrote in a blog post. “These include handwritten notes on his desk calendars, which show, for example, that he met President F.W. De Klerk for the first time on December 13, 1989 for two and a half hours in prison; the Warrants of Committal issued by the Supreme Court which sent him to prison; the earliest known photo of Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island circa 1971; and a personal letter written from prison in 1963 to his daughters, Zeni and Zindzi, after their mother was arrested, complete with transcript.”

The project was undertaken by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the Google Cultural Institute. You want to find more about how the legend of Nelson Mandela goes digital thanks to Google and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory? Just click here.

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