The archive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement arrived at Rhodes House Library in Oxford in 1996 and it is planned that the cataloguing process will be complete and the archive available to researchers by the spring of 2002. The earliest papers in the collection date from 1959 and record the activities of the AAM's predecessor, the Boycott Movement; the latest are from 1995 and concern the winding up of the AAM and the creation of ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa). The activities of the intervening 36 years have produced a mass of documentation which, when it arrived at the library, filled 630 boxes.
The process of sorting and cataloguing the collection is a lengthy one partly because of its size and partly because the papers are in some disorder. Understandably, it was not the AAM's priority to maintain its out of date records and various burglaries and arson attacks at the headquarters added to the confusion. The papers came to the library from several basements and garages where they had been stored when they were no longer current and as the AAM office needed more space.
The first task, a very time-consuming one, was to list in brief the contents of the boxes. The resulting information was then used to draw up a draft arrangement for the archive. This arrangement reflects in part the structure of the AAM with sections for the papers of the Annual General Meeting, the National Committee, Executive Committee, Officers' Meetings and the subcommittees such as those for finance, trade unions and health and the Anti-Apartheid News Editorial Board. Other sections in the archive will encompass the campaigns the AAM ran on political prisoners, investment in South Africa, the arms embargo, and the consumer, sports and cultural boycotts, as well as the AAM's links with local groups and its relations with the British government and political parties, with Southern African organisations and with international bodies. There is also material relating to organisations which worked closely with the AAM such as ELTSA (End Loans to South Africa), SATIS (Southern Africa - The Imprisoned Society), BART (Bishop Ambrose Reeves Trust) and the Liaison Group of Anti-Apartheid Movements in the European Union. There will be other sections for different types of material such as photographs, posters and artefacts, some of which are displayed in the exhibition. I must stress that the arrangement now on paper is a draft one and will no doubt be adapted as the project advances. For example new sections may be added if considerable material is found on a particular area.
The work currently in progress is the rearranging of the papers to reflect the theoretical arrangement and the reboxing of them in archivally sound folders and boxes. I began with the papers of the Annual General Meeting, National Committee and Executive Committee, as these provide useful information on the activities each year which will be of help when tackling the less structured sections of the archive. There were AGM papers scattered through about 100 of the original boxes. These were collected together, sorted by year and then duplicates were weeded out. So far AGM papers dating from 1969 to 1994 have been found. I believe that in the earlier years the AGM was called the Annual Aggregate Meeting but, other than the annual reports, nothing has been found so far from this time. If anyone has any papers which would fill in this gap, or the others which will doubtless arise, and which they would be willing to add to the archive, we would be most grateful.
Papers weeded from the archive are mainly duplicates, of which there are many, and some printed material which is available elsewhere, for example cuttings from British and South African newspapers which mention general events in South Africa but not the AAM itself and books which are already at the library. Some printed material is valuable however and will be retained, for example, much printed in Africa which is not readily available in this country. Some South African institutions have expressed an interest in AAM duplicate material and copies of annual reports, committee minutes, Anti-Apartheid News and conference papers are being kept for them.
Some conservation work will be necessary as a few boxes, particularly those containing early material, are suffering from mould. The quantity affected is very small however in view of the size of the collection.
I think that what I have just said makes clear why the archive is mainly closed to readers at present. The disorder means that it would be very time-consuming to locate all the papers on a particular subject. Material which we are able to make available at Rhodes House comprises a full set of Anti-Apartheid News, the annual reports from 1962 to 1994 and the papers of the Annual General Meetings, the National Committee and the Executive Committee. The eventual aim is to mount the catalogue on the Internet so that it is accessible to researchers world-wide.
One result of the presence of the AAM archive at Rhodes House has been the attraction to the library of similar collections. The papers of the Namibia Support Committee arrived in 1996 and have already been catalogued. Trevor Huddleston's papers arrived last year. The presence of these archives in one location will prove of great value to researchers into the history of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Southern African liberation movements.