Mondays to Fridays: 08:00 to 16:00.
Except Thursdays: 08:00 to 19:00 (reading room).
First Saturday of each month: 9:00 to 13:00 (reading room).
The archives building is situated on Roeland Street, off De Waal Drive. Reserved parking is available for the public.
Accessing the Collections
Access to the archives is free. Visitors are asked to sign a register at the front desk in the reception hall, which leads on to the reading room, where archives can be viewed.
Archives that date back less than 20 years need permission from the Provincial Archivist. Applications for permission should be made in writing to the Head of the Repository, who will check that it does not infringe on privacy rights or other criteria defined in the Promotion of Access to Information Act before making a recommendation to the Provincial Archivist.
According to the Provincial Archives and Records Service of the Western Cape Act (Act 3 of 2005), public records in the Western Cape are transferred to the Cape Town Archives Repository when they are 20 years or older.
The repository also collects non-public records with enduring value pertaining to the history of the Western Cape and its diverse communities.
These public and non-public records are supplemented by collections of maps, photographs, microfilms, books, pamphlets and official publications. The holdings consist of 33 000 metres of archives and date back as far as 1651.
The archival groups include:
- Government departments and offices.
- Magistrates and Bantu Affairs Commissioners.
- Cape Provincial Administration.
- School boards.
- Provincial hospitals.
- South African Railways.
- Village management boards.
- Local boards.
- Divisional councils.
- Commissions and committees.
The photograph collections include:
- A general collection.
- The Elliott Collection.
- The Jeffreys Collection.
- The Ravenscroft Collection.
- The Steer Collection.
Other collections that complemente the archives include:
- Leibbrandt manuscripts.
- Drawings and sketches.
- Maps and documents on loan.
- Non-public records, including the records of private individuals and organisations, that complement the history of the city and the province.
Searching the Archives
The archives can be searched online at the National Archives website using the National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS).
NAAIRS incorporates the following databases:
- The combined National Register of Manuscripts (NAREM) and National Register of Photographs (NAREF).
- The Cape Town Archhives Repository.
- The National Register of Audio-Visual Material.
- The National Archives Repository (public records of central government since 1910).
The archives also offer computerised finding aids in the form of guides (arranged archives and non-public records) and lists (map, photograph, microfilm, verbatim copies and publications collections as well as series of computerized archives) on the computer terminals in the reading room.
Typescript inventories of arranged archival groups and collections of non-public records are also available.
History of the Archives
- 1876 The Cape Government appoints a commission to collect, examine, classify and index the archives of the Colony.
- 1879 Dr George McCall Theal, a clerk in the stationery section of the Treasury Department, is charged with the part-time supervision of the archives depot.
- 1881 Theal is replaced by Rev HCV Leibbrandt, who was appointed as Librarian of the House of Assembly and Registrar (keeper) of the Colonial Archives, which functioned under the Ministerial Division of the Colonial Secretary.
The first records of the refreshing station were preserved in the Fort and later in the Castle. Early in the 19th century the British moved the records to the Slave Lodge in Adderley Street, which served as government offices.
- 1886 The new parliamentary building is completed. The archives move to the basement of the new building.
- 1908 Leibbrandt retires. The Colonial government appoints a commission "to have the custody on behalf of the Colonial Government of the Archives". Two officials are appointed to arrange the archives after office hours.
- 1910 The Archives Service is geographically decentralised, with archives repositories in each provincial capital under central administrative control of a head office.
- 1910 to 1948 The Archives Service functions under the Department of the Interior.
- 1912 Mr CG Botha is transferred to the Cape Archives as chief.
- 1913 The commission holds its last meeting in February.
- 1919 Dr Colin Graham Botha is appointed Chief Archivist for the Union of South Africa.
- 1922 The first Archives Act is promulgated.
- 1934 The archives move from the Parliamentary building to Queen Victoria Street (previously the University of the Cape of Good Hope).
- 1944 The office of the Chief Archivist moves from Cape Town to Pretoria.
- 1948 to 1967 The Archives functions under the Department of Education, Art and Science.
- 1953 New legislation is promulgated in 1953 and again in 1962, and is amended on various occasions.
- 1967 The service is transferred to the Department of Cultural Affairs.
- 1970 The Archives is transferred to the Department of National Education.
- 1990 The Cape Town Archives Repository moves to a new building constructed on the site of the old Roeland Street prison.
- 1994 The Archives Service is positioned under the newly established Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, which becomes the Department of Arts and Culture in 2002.
- 1996 The promulgation of the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act (Act 43 of 1996, as amended) provides the basis for the transformation of the public archives system and its alignment with the imperatives of the democratic South Africa.
This structure is reorganised in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Schedule 5), which stipulates that archives other than national archives fall under provincial control.
- 2006 In April 2006, the Western Cape Archives and Records Service is transferred from national control to the Provincial Government of the Western Cape and functions according to the Provincial Archives and Records Service of the Western Cape Act (Act 3 of 2005).
The Western Cape Archives and Records Service is a subdirectorate of the Directorate of Library and Archive Services, which is an integral part of the Western Cape Provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport.
The Western Cape Archives and Records Service aims to reach members of the public who do not know about the archives' existence and functions by running a number of public programmes. These feature open days, presentations and lectures on selected topics to scholars, students and members of the public.
Guided tours - including the strong rooms, which are normally not accessible to the public - are also conducted. There are exhibits on show in the reception hall and conference room.
Articles in Magazines, Periodicals and Newspapers
- Verster, FP, "A guided 'rummage' around the records of our history", Helderberg Sun (20 December 2005), 8.
- Verster, FP, "A journey through the Cape Colony 200 years ago", Village Life (December/January 2005-2006), 14.
- Verster, FP, "Archives extend a welcome to interested public", Village Life (October/November 2005), 3.
- Verster, FP, "Professor Walker se viool: 'n pleidooi vir oorspronklike navorsing", Quarterly Bulletin of the National Library of South Africa (June 2002), 139.
- Verster, FP, "The Archives: a fountainhead for fact or fiction", Cape Librarian (March/April 2006), 36.
- Verster, FP, "VOC-uitstalling in word en beeld by Kaapse Argief", BY, bylae tot Die Burger (23 November 2002), 2.