Fonds BC1223 - Centre for Popular Memory (CPM) Archive

Reference code



Centre for Popular Memory (CPM) Archive


  • 1977-2013 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

Approximately 76 boxes of transcripts

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Biographical history

The CPM’s multilingual african oral history archive contained over 2000 life history recordings, many with full transcripts and translations. These collections have been gathered, preserved, migrated and digitised over the last twenty six years. The CPM focused on developing these scholarly research collections for academic and public use as critical knowledge systems within a larger South African and international context.The Centre for Popular Memory (CPM) also developed audio-visual archival material for digital dissemination. The research maintained a multi-lingual approach to collecting, preserving and creating access to data.

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Scope and content

The Centre for Popular Memory (CPM) was a research centre allied with the Historical Studies Department of the University of Cape Town. It focused on African oral history, research and advocacy. It began in 1985 as the Western Cape Oral History project, expanded in 2001 as the Centre for Popular Memory and closed in 2013.
The Centre for Popular Memory collection is divided into ten holding collections which represent the focus areas of the archive. Holding and Collection levels do not contain any interviews themselves.


System of arrangement

Holdings receive a four-letter designation, taken from the first four letters of the holding name, eg: LIFE (L) (for Life Histories), POLI (P) (for Politics).
Collection titles receive a three-letter capitalized designation. The first of these letters will be the first letter in the holdings title eg (P) Politics , the second two are taken from the collection title, eg: (P) Politics (IN) Individuals (PIN).
Sub-collections receive a three-letter collection catalogue designation. The first letter remains upper case, while the second and third letters move to lower case followed by subsequent numbers to make them unique. the holding name, eg: for the first sub-collection within PIN (Politics Individuals), the catalogue number would be Pin1 followed by Pin2 etc..
See the "Notes" section for further information.

Conditions governing access

Each sub-collection has its own set of copyright agreements, please see collection summary and files for this.

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This holding contains discussions of various types of artistic and cultural expression practiced throughout the Western Cape and the broader South African community. Subjects as diverse as food, festivals, cartoonists, and architecture are included. This holding includes the general Arts [ART] collection, as well as Culture [ACU], Music [AMU], Performance [APE] and Visual [AVI].
This holding documents various aspects of life in communities of the Eastern and Western Cape, as well as in other parts of Southern and Central Africa. While there is a focus on memories of forced removals and other apartheid-era practices within specific Western Cape communities, memories from other subjects and areas are included. This holding includes the general Communities (COM) collection, as well as Western Cape (CWC), Eastern Cape (CEC), Northern Cape (CNC), North West (CNW), KwaZulu-Natal (CKN), Gauteng (CGA), Mpumalanga (CMP), Free State (CFS), and Limpopo (CLI).
This holding documents aspects of education within the Western Cape and other parts of Southern, Western and Central Africa. Narratives include interviewees’ experiences of policies affected by political climates. It also documents memories of particular schools and their relation to socio-political environments. This holding includes the general Education [EDU] collection, as well as Digital Divide [EDD], Secondary School Education [ESE] and Tertiary Education [ETE].
This holding documents the natural, physical and political environment of the Eastern and Western Cape, as well as that of other parts of Southern and Central Africa. Impressions of particular areas, including heritage sites, memories of place and space, memories of political and community involvement and awareness, and issues of safety and poverty, are a focus of some of the collections. This holding includes the general Environment [ENV] collection as well as Eastern Cape [EEC], Free State [EFS], Gauteng [EGA], KwaZulu-Natal [EKN], Limpopo [ELI], Mpumalanga [EMP], Northern Cape [ENC], North West [ENW] and Western Cape [EWC].
This holding documents perceptions of individual and group identities within communities. This perceived identities collection [IDE] tracks issues of race, class, culture and language amongst others, with a view to better understanding how individuals structure their experiences of identification in the world.
This holding documents the life histories of individuals from all walks of society. Each interview is considered to be its own collection. This holding includes the general Life Histories [LIF] collection, as well as Autobiographical [LAU] and Biographical [LBI].
This holding documents the stories and memories of those immigrating to and seeking refuge in South Africa, as well as the stories and memories of those who have emigrated from South Africa to other parts of Africa and the world. This holding includes the general Migrancy and Refugees [MIG] collection, as well as Africa [MAF], Europe [MEU], North America [MNA], Asia [MAS] and Migration from South Africa [MFS].
This holding documents the political struggles of the people and organisations that fought against the apartheid state in South Africa, as well as the memories of those who fought other battles in their own communities and abroad. This holding includes the general Politics [POL] collection, as well as Organisations [POR] involved in politics and Individuals [PIN] involved in political movements.
This holding documents the stories and memories of individuals who have experience of trauma in their lives, as well as the observations of organisations involved in trauma and memory-related projects. The classic notion of trauma is understood as experiences that rupture the individual’s sense of self, and lead to post-traumatic effects in their day-to-day life experience. This holding includes the general Trauma and Memory [TRA] collection, as well as Organisations [TOR] and Individuals [TIN].
This holding documents the working environments and lives of individuals, particularly of those working in the Western Cape. This holding includes the general Work [WOR] collection, as well as Trade and Industries [WTI] and the Non-commercial [WNC] sector.

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  • Shelf: 49a