Archival Science

, Volume 11, Issue 1–2, pp 95–112 | Cite as

Toward an understanding of archives as a feature of collective memory

Original paper


This paper reviews important aspects of the literature on collective memory, how some of these concerns have been expressed in archives, and contemplates how these issues relate to the politically transformative South African post-apartheid context. It highlights the erosion of boundaries between archives, museums, and other less-institutionalized memory projects in post-apartheid South Africa. It notes ways in which archival activity is taking place outside of traditional archives, as part of a changing and evolving memory landscape. It acknowledges the significant gaps in the written record that are a result of apartheid practices and cites different approaches that were overlooked by apartheid’s official archival systems. This paper offers a way of contemplating the ‘social constructedness’ of collective memory and the social and political dimensions of archives.


Collective memory Social memory Personal testimonies Political transformation Politics of memory South Africa 



I wish to acknowledge and thank the following people for commenting on earlier drafts of this paper and/or for discussions that have helped me to think through the issues raised here: my adviser Prof. Margaret Hedstrom, and Prof. Elizabeth Yakel, Verne Harris, David A. Wallace, Trond Jacobsen, Ricky Punzalan, and Joanna Steele.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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