Centre celebrates first decade

04 June 2012

The Centre for Popular Memory (CPM) had every reason to roll out the fanfare when it celebrated its 10th anniversary in May.

For one thing, the Centre has made a substantial contribution to UCT's social responsiveness efforts over the past decade. It did so by taking archiving of South Africa's oral history to new levels, increasing intellectual capacity in this area, and making the stories of everyday South Africans accessible.

The CPM started in 2001 when the unit not only changed its name - from the Western Cape Oral History Project, which originally began in 1985 - but its vision too.

Dr Sean Field, CPM director, recalls that at the time there was a turn to memory studies internationally. In response, the Centre began devoting considerable energies to developing sound and audio-visual archiving.

"The central idea was to make it easier for users to access our archives," Field says.

One of the highlights of the decade has been a five-year Bridging the Digital Divide Schools Project, with staff from the CPM teaching over 1,000 learners across schools in disadvantaged communities how to implement an oral history project.

In total, the CPM has produced six film documentaries, five books, and has published over 30 articles over the past 10 years.

Field and his colleagues are also about to launch a large-scale, video-taped oral history research and archiving project titled Memories of Apartheid, and at the birthday bash, unveiled a new holding catalogue.

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