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The Historical Papers research archive, situated in the William Cullen Library, was established in 1966. We are a friendly, vastly used, valued and popular service as well as unique and accessible hub for human rights research serving civil society, scholars and researchers. 

Historical Papers is one of the largest and most comprehensive independent archives in Southern Africa. We house over 3300 collections of historical, political and cultural importance, encompassing the mid 17th Century to the Present.

Our primary aim is to serve the broader community as well as the university and to transform archives into accessible centres for research. Included are the records of many human rights NGOs, trade unions, labour federations, political parties, women's organisations, churches and church bodies, and the papers of human rights activists. We are also home to a huge volume of political trials, photographs, press clippings, oral interviews, and material collected by several research institutions and individual researchers.

Our digitisation activities have been made possible with generous funding from the
Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation and the 
Carnegie Corporation of New York.  

 Download FOSATU book
 Download Introduction
 Download Chapter 1
 Download Chapter 2 
 Download Chapter 3
 Download Chapter 4

On the 17 February 2011 Historical Papers and Museum Africa jointly held the opening of the FOSATU exhibition and the book launch of " 'The future is in the Hands of the Workers' A History of FOSATU". You can now download the book for FREE.

  • William Matlala Photographic collection
    This new collection contains about 4300 photographs by the freelance photographer William Matlala, who served the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in his capacity as photographer particularly in the 1990s. His photos cover trade union activities as well as major political events during that time.
  • Scout Stamp collection
    The South African Scout Association has deposited the Jac Joel Collection of Scout Stamps at the Historical Papers Research Archive.
    The collection consists of stock books and first-day covers comprising almost all Scout stamps from the inception of Scouting in 1908 up to 1989.
  • More digitised collections online!
    The Historical Papers Research Archive has published more online collections, again made possible with funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation.
  • South African Spoken Word Conversion Project

    Building African Digital Research Content:

    In July 2011 the Carnegie Corporation of New York generously provided funding for the digitsation of the 4000 analogue audio tapes which are under the custodianship of Historical Papers. This project has ensured that unique, previously hard-to-find information resources are preserved and are made widely accessible.
    See our Guide to digital Audio on this Homepage.
  • The Wits Digitisation Centre
    One of the crucial projects for the work of Historical Papers was the establishment of a fully fledged Digitisation Centre, which opened its door in February 2012.

    The Wits Digitisation Centre is situated in the William Cullen Library. It is equipped with the latest technology for the digital archiving of collections, including BookEye and Zeutschel scanners amongst others, as well as a small conventional conservation area. Eventually the Centre is set to serve not only Historical Papers and the Library, but also the University.