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Archival Collection

Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to the University Archives and Special Collections. Our collections are rare and unique, they include original letters and artwork, with particular strengths in arts activism, animation and photography.

In 1994 the National Party had been in power for 16 years. Hendrik Verwoerd had been Prime Minister for six years, and the outcome of the Rivonia treason trial sent the leadership of the African National Congress  (ANC) to Robben Island where they faced the sentence of life imprisonment. In the same year the University of the Orange Free State, as we were then called, launched a campaign to create and preserve political documents relating to South Africa's history since the end of the second Anglo Boer War in 1902.

In 1970, this initiative was realized with the creation of the Institute of Contemporary History (INCH) affectionately known in Afrikaans " ARGIEF VIR EIETYDSE AANGELEENTHEDE (INEG)". The Institute consisted of three divisions, namely the Documentation Division (Private Collections), the News Cuttings Service (newspaper clippings) and the Research Division. The institute's primary function was to collect, preserve and make available information accessible to the researchers and the public.

In 1998, financial constraints resulted in the INCH being devolved. The Documentation Division would in future be known as the Archive for Contemporary Affairs (ARCA). It still houses the private document collection of more than 900 donations. The News Cutting Service became SA Media and currently has a full-text database of about 6 million newspaper articles since 1972. The Research Division was removed to the Department of History.

About Us

The Archive is responsible for the collection, safekeeping, arrangement, and description of archivalia and for making it accessible to researchers.

At present the archive houses 957 private document collections, covering approximately 3 500m of shelving space. This includes collections from economists, politicians, churches, cultural and community leaders.

The archive has a fully equipped Sound Archive at its disposal, for recording the memoirs of individuals. Hundreds of audio cassettes containing precious research material have already been processed and are available to researchers.

Over and above the collections of private documents and the sound archive material, the Archive has a comprehensive collection of newspapers and newspaper cuttings, official publications, a unique collection of pamphlets, thousands of photographs, press releases and speeches of Ministers of the National Party.

Donation of Documents

The Archive is interested in correspondence, minutes, speeches, circulars, reports, memoranda, notes, diaries, pamphlets, photographs, and newspaper cuttings of prominent, historical research and heritage about University of the Free State and the community of the Free State. In fact, we prefer to receive a donor's complete collection. If there are any documents which in our opinion do not belong in the Archive, they will be returned to the donor.

The donor also maintains control over the accessibility of the collection for research purposes. Confidential documents may be withdrawn from the collection for any period of time and instructions in this respect are painstakingly obeyed. A donor can also make additions to the collection at any time and as often as it suits him or her.

It must be emphasised that the Archive does not purchase any documents and that donors receive no financial compensation.

Archival Holdings

  • The archive collects correspondence, minutes, speeches, circulars, reports, memoranda, notes, diaries, pamphlets, photographs and newspaper cuttings.
  • It has more that 4000 sound recordings, which include parliamentary openings, speeches, and special radio broadcasts.
  • Apart from about 1900 photographs of politicians, it also houses a number of photographs in the private collections, as well as the photograph collection of Die Volksblad, a regional Afrikaans newspaper.
  • It has a collection of political cartoons by Charl Marais, political cartoonist who published in the Die Volksblad.
  • It holds the papers of three state presidents; CR Swart, Nicholaas Diederichs and Tom Naude;
  • The private papers of what Herman Giliomee has termed the "Last Afrikaner Leaders," namely the private papers of HF Verwoerd, BJ Vorster, PW Botha and FW de Klerk.

The Verwoerd papers are vast; the inventory is 134 pages long with the papers spanning the period 1932-1966. The papers cover Verwoerd's period as editor of the nationalist newspaper Die Transvaler,  his time as Minister of Native Affairs, his ascension to the position of Prime Minister following the death of JG. Strydom, and ending on the 6 of September 1966 when he was assassinated by Dimitri Tsafendas a Greek- Mozambican lifelong political militant.  

  • Researchers interested in Verwoerd should also consult the papers of his private secretary JF Barnard, and his wife, Betsie Verwoerd, and also at ARCA.
  • The papers of BJ Vorster are similarly impressive in scope, and are particularly rich for scholars interested in South Africa's foreign policy. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his papers is that they comprise largely of correspondence, thus they provide a different way to read the  "official mind" of the National Party (NP). It also includes 386 of his speeches. We also have the papers of Voster's wife, Tini, in our possession.
  • By contrast, PW Botha's papers contain over 180 of his speeches, alongside constituency reports, personal correspondence and private diaries. ARCA also houses the papers of PW Botha's first wife, Elize.

A study of Betsie VerwoerdTini Voster and Elize Botha's papers could bring a gendered dimension to the activities of the NP, and would perhaps challenge the notion that the NP women were primarily Volksmoeders, who consumed rather than helped to (re) produce nationalist culture.

To broaden our scope of political party holdings, we launched a new initiative to collect archival material relating to women in politics. 
The first set of papers in this series is those of Sheila Camerer.
We are close to finishing indexing the accretion of the papers of all the NP branches including the Free State, the Transvaal, Natal, the Cape, South West Africa and the Federal Council to valuable material for those working on the interplay between government policy in Pretoria and regional politics.

For researchers interested in the period of negotiation and transition between 1990 to 1994 and South Africa's subsequent reintegration into the world economy, we have been promised the papers of 'Pik' Botha, South Africa;s longest serving Minister of Foreign Affairs. His papers should also be consulted alongside the papers of Roelf Meyer, Kobie Coetsee and Leon Wessels, three of the NP's key negotiations during the transition period. Scholars interested in the negotiation period should also consult the papers of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA). the collection of Dr Koornhof, Emily Hobhouse, the Cradock Four (were a group of four anti- apartheid activists who were abducted and murdered by South African security police in June 1985, named as such all four were from the town of Cradock, Eastern Cape). The Cradock Four members were Mathew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlawuli who were rumoured to be on a secret police hit list for their active role in the struggle against apartheid in Cradock.


FAK (Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Association), Federale Vroueraad (Federal women's League), and the South African Academy for Arts and Science.


The ARCA is in custody of political collection from across the political spectrum including, African National Congress (ANC), Afrikaner Party, Labour Party, Democratic Party, Reunited National Party or People's Party, Inkatha Freedom Party, Conservative Party, National Party, National Conservative Party, National Union, New Order, New Republican Party, Progressive Federal Party, Progressive Party, South African Party, Unionist Party, United Party and the Freedom Front.

ARCA has also acquired the papers of Tony Leon, which are required reading for scholars interested in the nature of opposition politics and the trajectory of liberalism in the post-apartheid period.  We also house original letters of Nelson Mandela during his prison time that were donated by Vorster. These are but a few of the interesting collections we house. Please refer to our webpage under Archive for Contemporary Affairs on the university home page for more comprehensive list and inventories of our collections..

We do receive a range of post-graduate students and post-doctoral researchers from all over the globe in different areas of interest, researchers from Alaska, Australia, Brazil, Germany, New Zealand, UK, France, Ireland, Canada, South Korea, Russia, Sweden, USA and some parts of Southern Africa. And so interestingly ARCA received a  visit by Justice Molala in mid-February 2021, one of South Africa's most -well known political analyst, founding editor of This Day newspaper, publisher of the Sowetan and Sunday World, and Sunday Times correspondence in London and New Yolk. 





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