The Five Hundred Year Archive is project of the NRF Chair in Archive and Public Culture, based in the History Department, University of Cape Town.

The project seeks to stimulate engagement with the neglected eras of the southern African past before the advent of European colonialism.

Enquiry and research in this area is hampered by the absence of accessible archival material. Researchers can make use of materials found in museums and a variety of other places that are not regarded as “archives”, but the material in these other places is often misidentified, undated, and misplaced. Much is fragmented and dispersed across the world. Some of it, like archaeological material, is difficult for non-archaeologists to gain access to. Many documentary sources were produced by colonial writers and reflect a variety of colonial perspectives and understandings.

The FHYA project addresses these challenges. It aims to develop and promote understandings of the archival possibilities of materials located both within and outside of institutions and to facilitate their engagement. The FHYA locates these materials, places them in an innovative archival setting that both tracks and challenges colonial framing and then makes them accessible online.

The FHYA produces exemplars and prototypes designed to show what is possible. It foregrounds the challenges and difficulties (amongst others, epistemological, discursive, political, practical, technical, financial and copyright) involved in establishing an archive for the five hundred years before European colonialism. The full range of problems which the FHYA attempts to address is discussed in a separate research paper. [link to come]

For a detailed discussion of what the FHYA does CLICK HERE

Learn how to use the FHYA by clicking this link Using the FHYA