Google offers virtual tour of prison where Nelson Mandela was held

Digital Content

The island prison where Nelson Mandela was held for nearly two decades during South African apartheid is now open for online tourists.

Google has launched a virtual tour of the infamous Robben Island prison colony off the coast of Cape Town, now a UN World Heritage site and one of South Africa's most visited landmarks. Viewers can now roam the drab cells, peek inside the guard towers and soak in the island's history from a computer or smartphone.

The maximum security political prison was shuttered in the 1990s and converted into a museum shortly after. At other times in its history, it served as a leper colony and a mental hospital. Mandela, the prison's most famous occupant, spent 18 years behind its bars for his role in opposing Apartheid before going on to become the country's first back president.

Former political prisoner Vusumsi Mcongo curates the tour via video, and scenes of the island as it is today are interspersed with historical photographs and documents. The sights include the craggy limestone quarries where prisoners were forced to toil for long hours, Mandela's own cramped, sparsely furnished quarters and the house where Pan African Congress founder Robert Sobukwe was held in solitary confinement.

The online attraction is the latest in a series of historic sites and natural wonders documented by the Google Cultural Institute. Other historical exhibits include the theater where Abraham Lincoln was shot, Auschwitz concentration camp and the site of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

The exhibit isn't the first Google project to feature Mandela. In 2012, the company spent $1.25 million to roll out an extensive digital archive of documents and photos to document the life of the iconic South African leader.
Source: Mashable 23 April 2015