Towards the end of 1964 a campaign was launched to establish a centre for the collection and preservation of political documents at the University of the Free State with a view to the writing of a South African political history since 1902.
The stimulation of contemporary historiography was as yet a barren field in South Africa. As a result, the Institute for Contemporary History came into existence towards the end of 1970. The Institute consisted of three divisions, namely the Documentation Division, the Press Cutting and the Research Division. In 1998 the Documentation Division became fully autonomous and has since been known as the Archive for Contemporary Affairs.
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 950 private document collections, covering approximately 2500 linear metres of shelving space. This includes the collections of economists, politicians, church, 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.
Above and beyond the collections of private documents and the sound archive material, the Archive has a very comprehensive collection of newspapers and newspaper cuttings, official publications, a unique collection of pamphlets, thousands of photographs, press releases and speeches of Ministers.
The Archive is interested in correspondence, minutes, speeches, circulars, reports, memoranda, notes, diaries, pamphlets, photographs and newspaper cuttings. 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 are 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 Confidential documents may be withdrawn from the collection for any period of time and instructions in this respect are painstakingly obeyed.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 emphasized that the Archive does not purchase any documents and that donors receive no financial compensation.