Provincial Archive Service: Overview

Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport
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Tel: 021 483 9503
Fax: 021 483 9504
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Western Cape Archives and Records Service

The Western Cape Archives and Records Service collects, manages and preserves records that form part of our archival heritage. These records are preserved for use by government and people of South Africa.

The Western Cape Archives and Records Service is in the custody of archival records dating from 1651when the first colonial settlement by the Dutch was established.

The core functions of the Western Cape Archives and Records Service include:

  • Providing access to records and promote their use by the public
  • Ensure proper records management
  • Preserving records

Archival records are made up of public records and non-public records. Public records are created by government, government departments and organisations in the course of performing their functions. Non-public records are private records and papers created by private individuals and donated to the Archives Repository.

Opening Hours

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)

Getting There
The archives building is situated at 72 Roeland Street, off road parking is available for the public on Drury Lane.

Use our interactive map to find out more about our Provincial Archives.
Access to the Archives
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 for consultation. Applications for permission should be made in writing to the Head of the Repository.
Collections Available
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 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 about 40 000 linear metres of archives and date back as far as 1651.
Archival Groups:
  • Government departments and offices.
  • Magistrates and Bantu Affairs Commissioners.
  • Cape Provincial Administration.
  • School Boards.
  • Provincial hospitals.
  • South African Railways.
  • Municipalities.
  • Village Management Boards.
  • Local Boards.
  • Divisional Councils and Regional Services Councils.
  • Commissions and Committees.
Photographic Collections:
  • General collection.
  • Elliott Collection.
  • Jeffreys Collection.
  • Ravenscroft Collection.
  • Steer Collection.
Other Collections:
  • Microfilms.
  • Leibbrandt manuscripts.
  • Drawings and sketches.
  • Maps..
  • Non-public records, including the records of private individuals and organisations, that complement the history of the city and the province.
Online Searches
The archives can be searched online at the website of the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa. 
Paper-Based Searches
Typescript inventories of arranged archival groups and collections of non-public records are available in the reading room.
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).
Organisational Structure
The Western Cape Archives and Records Service is a Directorate of the 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 learners, students and members of the public.
Guided tours - including the strock rooms, which are normally not accessible to the public - are also conducted. 

To listen to the Archives radio clips, click the play button below:







The content on this page was last updated on 5 October 2015