International Archives day: Putting people at the centre!

International Archives day is celebrated on 9 June 2019: Designing the Archives in the 21st Century

We would like to think that Antarctic Legacy of South Africa (ALSA) is putting people at the centre of our archive. ALSA is based on an on-going digital based archive at the Stellenbosch University. The ALSA archive aims to collect and store the stories, memories, photographs and other documents pertaining to South Africans in the Antarctic, sub-Antarctic islands and in the Southern Ocean since the turn of the previous century.

An archive is a by-product of human activity preserved in material to provide a direct window on past events. Archives are witnesses to the past, it provides evidence, explanation and justification both for past actions and current decisions.

Why do we need to keep the ALSA archive alive? The archive highlights the role that South Africans have played in the Antarctic region which was never been fully recognised until the digital archive has been established. Through this archive, we hope to do justice and give acknowledgement to these men and women. This archive also serves as the primary source of research-material regarding the personal and professional experiences of South African team members, scientists and take-over personnel. The photographs and documents in this archive are from the personal collections of these people and put them in the centre of this archive.

It is great being the archivist of this legacy of South Africa, it is like being the record keeper of the past. “There are not many jobs where it can be said that what you do today will matter hundreds of years from now. The return is to be a custodian of society’s memory” (International Council of Archives).

The ALSA archive consists of entries dating back to the heroic age, until present time. The archive is divided into different collections to make browsing through the archive easier.

Below statistics of some of the collections on the archive:

Top 10 articles

3 026 Family on Tristan da Cunha
2 763 Sheep on Marion Island
2 291 Wingspan of Gough Island birds
1 956 Cats at Marion Island Base
1 870 Markers (crosses) of two team members on Gough Island
1 865 Transportation at Bouvet Island
1 777 Bouvet Island
1 726 SA Agulhas crew member in engine control room
1 718 Roaring Forties
1 553 Albatross wingspan

General Overview (2015-2019) 10201 Photo Gallery: 1394 Written material:
11863 Items Archived 1995 Gough Island  214 Antarctic Bulletin 
1 021 625 Item Views 4088 Marion Island  347 Newsletters 
12 633 Collection Views 68 Prince Edward Island  139 Popular Writings 
3 022 329 Searches Performed 3809 SANAE  330 Research Articles 
87 Average views per item 177 Vessels in the Antarctic  43 Vessel Voyages 

Lastly, we would like you to contact us if you have any material that can become part of ALSA Digital Archive. This way we can ensure that your South African Antarctic Legacy is digitised and preserved for the future.

Contact: Ria Olivier –


Ria Olivier, Antarctic Legacy of South Africa, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, 09 June 2019

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