Provincial Archives Services: Know more about your history | Western Cape Government

Provincial Archives Services: Know more about your history

Our Archives Service gives you the opportunity to view historical documents. Whether you need to know more about your family history or access documents for research, our archives is the place to go.

Situated in Roeland Street in Cape Town, they store some of the oldest documents in our country that date back to 1651.

Records are available and classified as:

  • printed paper
  • written manuscripts
  • maps and plans
  • photographic images
  • sound and electronic data

Jo-Anne Duggan, director of Archival Platform, believes that archives play an important role in our country. “They are responsible for ensuring the proper management of all records of government and for preserving these for future generations.”

Duggan said archives services can help us to come to terms with the past, understand the present or imagine our future.  Here’s how these records can be useful to you in everyday life.  

students-reading-book-at-archivesFamily history

Tracing your family history (genealogy) is not only an exciting opportunity to know more about the past, it can also help you access estate papers that are issued after death. These papers include wills and death notices. If you’re curious about the past, you can:

  • find out about your family and where you come from - slave descendants can also use the slavery era records to learn more,
  • gain useful information about your family’s medical history and causes of death, this can help you determine your risk of getting a disease,
  • use these records for research and academic purposes, and
  • determine the truth about land claims by using estate papers and wills.

Media data

Much like estate records, photographs, sound and electronic data provide useful insight about the past. Here are some reasons to use this service:

  • You are allowed to make photo copies of portraits and can use it as wall art. 
  • You can also access family portraits and compare your resemblance to other family members.
  • Microfilms are available and are useful for research.

Maps, sketches and plans

These documents are part of public records that helps government deliver services. Records include town planning, the building of schools, housing and other infrastructure. These records are useful to engineers, students, researchers and government.

Visit us

If you’re interested in using this service you can find our building at:

72 Roeland Street
Cape Town
South Africa

Opening hours are:

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)

What you need to know before visiting

  • If you need access to records that are 20 years or older you’ll need to ask for permission from the Provincial Archivist. Applications for permission should be made in writing to the Head of the Repository.
  • Visits are free. All you need to do is sign a register before you go to the reading room where you can view the archives.
  • If you want to make photocopies, you'll need to pay 80 cents per page. Please note, the archives only provides A4 copies.
  • You'll pay R13 for high-resolution photos and images to be transferred to your flash drive. (Charges are per image).
  • You can arrange group visits and school tours for free.

Celebrating National Archives Week

Our Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport will celebrate from 11 May to 15 May 2015. You can visit the archives or participate in the following activities:

  • archives-reading-roomFrom guided tours of the historic building, presentations and exhibitions, you can arrange a visit to the archives. Group visits may be arranged with Amanda Mdawe.
    Tel: 021 483 0424
  • You can attend a free workshop on researching family history on 12 May from 09:00-12:00. You will however need to make a booking. Contact Jaco Van de Merwe.
    Tel: 021 483 0417 

There are also many outreach programmes taking place across our province.

Get in touch

If you need more information about this service, contact us at 021 483 0400.

The content on this page was last updated on 8 May 2015