The Centre for Popular Memory was identified as a priority project within the Humanities Faculty. Previously located in the Historical Studies Department at the University of Cape Town.
Popular Memory’s predecessor, the Western Cape Oral History Project (WCOHP) was established in 1985 and conducted various projects, including significant interviews with former District Six residents. By the late 1990s South Africa had experienced dramatic changes and internationally oral historians were shifting their attentions to memory and identity projects. These shifts motivated the change from the WCOHP to the broader vision of the CPM in 2001.