The Westbury Community Archive: Claiming the Past, Defining the Present towards a Better Future

  • Mudney Halim University of Johannesburg
Keywords: local history, activists, archives, grassroots narratives, community heritage, community archives


This article looks at the process of compiling a community archive in Westbury, Johannesburg. The township is located alongside the better known Sophiatown. Its history provides an insight into the experiences of the working class in the city since the establishment of Johannesburg more than a 100 years ago. The motivation for this archive comes from the experiences of activists in dealing with social and economic challenges that this community continues to face, and the connection with past activism through the work of community activists like Florrie Daniels. Daniels kept meticulous records of community organisations she helped to establish around early childhood development, preventative healthcare, poverty alleviation, housing, sport, youth and women’s organisations, as well as political and civic movements from the 1960s onwards. Much of what is contained in the Florrie Daniels collection is associated with cooperative grassroots activity. Her collection offers a perspective that includes records of working-class solidarity around regional and national social and political struggles. It forms the basis of further accumulation of materials to incorporate into a community archive. The idea of the archive has encouraged dialogue between veteran activists, organisations that operate in the area and education institutions that resulted in collaborative approaches in its construction.