Open access repository for the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa ongoing for more than a decade and still growing!

Preserving and promoting the Antarctic legacy for the future generations of South Africa with an open access repository is the work of the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa (ALSA) Project. It is a National Research Foundation-funded project that forms part of the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP). It is based in the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University (SU). Its principal investigator is Ria Olivier, supported by a multi-disciplinary group of academics based at Monash University in Australia, the Iziko Museums of South Africa, SU and OpenCollab. The project is staffed by digital archivist and project manager, Ria Olivier and science communicator and digital marketer, Anche Louw.

The aims of the project are to preserve and promote the Antarctic legacy of South Africa with an archive as its foundation. Management and maintenance of the database will take place in the Department of Botany and Zoology at SU in collaboration with the Stellenbosch University Library as host of the archive. Promoting and marketing the archive include presentations, exhibitions and talks throughout South Africa to interested organisations and societies, general public, tertiary institutions and international organisations.

The overall aim of the project may be defined as the preservation of photographic, written, oral and other records to ensure that South Africa’s involvement in Antarctica, at the Prince Edward Islands, at Gough Island and at sea in the Southern Ocean are properly archived for posterity. The main period of interest may be taken as commencing with the annexation of the Prince Edward Islands in 1948 and continuing to the present day.

The digital repository is an online open-accessed digitised information source to the material available from SANAP for social science, law and humanities studies by interested scholars. The project is also envisaged to become a reference to all scientific material published under the auspices of and/or funded by SANAP and of Antarctic region-related publications by South Africans who work outside of SANAP. To promote the legacy, the project engage with the SANAP community and the cultural environment in South Africa, with special attention to museums and libraries, to ensure that material that is informative of South Africa’s involvement in the Antarctic region, will be available. The expected outcomes is:

  • an expanded online and readily accessible repository of South African involvement in the Antarctic region from 1948 to the present day; and
  • a heightened awareness of South Africa’s polar heritage and promoting of the repository both locally and internationally.

More about the Antarctic Legacy Digital Archive:The project collects and preserves the stories, memories, photographs and other documents pertaining to South Africans in Antarctica and on the sub-Antarctic Islands since the turn of the previous century. The role that South Africans have played in scientific, biological and meteorological research in the sub-Antarctic Ocean has never been fully recognised until now. Through this open access repository, we hope to do justice and give acknowledgement to these men and women. The repository serves as the primary source of research material regarding the personal and professional experiences of South African scientists who have worked in the sub-Antarctic region. The photographs and documents in this archive are from the personal collections of many of South Africa’s finest Antarctic and Marion Island scientists and explorers.

South Africa, through SANAP, is the only African country with involvement in the Antarctic region, managing research bases in Antarctica, on Gough Island and on Marion Island.


Ria Olivier, Antarctic Legacy of South Africa, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, 22 October 2018.

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