Museums sweeping squares to collect anti-capitalist materials
NEW YORK - The Associated Press
An Occupy Wall Street activist dressed as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg stages a play in Duarte Square. AFP PhotoOccupy Wall Street may still be working to shake the notion it represents a passing outburst of rage, but some establishment institutions have already decided the movement’s artifacts are worthy of historic preservation.
More than a half-dozen major museums and organizations from the Smithsonian Institution to the New-York Historical Society have been avidly collecting materials produced by the Occupy movement.
Staffers have been sent to occupied parks to rummage for buttons, signs, posters and documents. Websites and tweets have been archived for digital eternity. And museums have approached individual protesters directly to obtain posters and other ephemera.
The Museum of the City of New York is planning an exhibition on Occupy for next month.
“Occupy is sexy,” said Ben Alexander, who is head of special collections and archives at Queens College in New York, which has been collecting Occupy materials. “It sounds hip. A lot of people want to be associated with it.”
To keep established institutions from shaping the movement’s short history, protesters have formed their own archive group, stashing away hundreds of cardboard signs, posters, fliers, buttons, periodicals, documents and banners in temporary storage while they seek a permanent home for the materials.
“We want to make sure we collect it from our perspective so that it can be represented as best as possible,” said Amy Roberts, a library and information studies graduate student at Queens College who helped create the archives working group.
The archives group has been approached by institutions seeking to borrow or acquire Occupy materials. Roberts said they were discussing donating the entire collection to the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University.
A handful of protesters began camping out in September in a lower Manhattan plaza called Zuccotti Park, outraged at Wall Street excess and income inequality; they were soon joined by others who set up tents and promised to occupy “all day, all night.” Similar camps sprouted in dozens of cities nationwide and around the world. Many were forcibly cleared.
Much of the frenzied collection by institutions began in the early weeks of the protests. In part, they were seeking to collect and preserve as insurance against the possibility history might be lost.