At the end of 1964 a campaign was launched to establish a centre for the collection and preservation of political documents at the University of the Free State with a view to documenting South African political history since 1902.
The stimulation of contemporary historiography was new in South Africa. As a result, the Institute for Contemporary History came into existence towards the end of 1970. The Institute consisted of three divisions:
Press Cutting, and
In 1998 the Documentation Division became independent and is known as the Archive for Contemporary Affairs (ARCA).
The Archive is responsible for the collection, safekeeping, arrangement and description of archivalia and for making it accessible to researchers. And at present the Archive houses 957 private document collections, covering approximately 3 500m of shelving space. This includes collections from: economists, politicians, churches and cultural and community leaders.
The Archive has a fully equipped Sound Archive at its disposal, for recording the memoirs of individuals. Hundreds of audio cassettes containing precious research material have already been processed and are available to researchers.
Over and above the collections of private documents and the sound archive material, the Archive has a comprehensive collection of newspapers and newspaper cuttings, official publications, a unique collection of pamphlets, thousands of photographs, press releases and speeches of Ministers.