News / City Life

Newberry Library is archiving signs from the Women’s March

Women's March on Chicago
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

An estimated 250,000 demonstrators attended the Women’s March on Chicago, and one of the city’s world-famous research institutions is working to preserve the event's historical significance. The Newberry Library is asking people who attended the Saturday rally in Grant Park and those who were at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., to donate items such as signs, banners, photographs, pins, buttons and posters from either event.

On Facebook, the Newberry began urging people to save their signs and other ephemera from the rallies in order to help the library “build a living archive of modern protest that includes voices from across the city.” Feedback was so overwhelming that the library had to consider new ways to manage donated materials.

“The response to our call for materials has been awe-inspiring, but also above and beyond what we expected,” said Alex Teller, director of communications and editorial services at Newberry Library. “So, we're probably going to have to create some donating criteria to manage the influx of stuff.” “We also wanted to encourage everyone to think of their protest signs as worth saving for future generations interested in looking back on how citizens of our time framed pressing political issues and organized themselves for the causes they cared about,” she said. 

To help people interested in donating materials, the library posted a short guide on its website. Martha Briggs, the Newberry’s Lloyd Lewis Curator of Modern Manuscripts, said the donated items will begin the process of preserving the raw material from what she expects to be an "evolving landscape of social action."

Other research and cultural institutions are also collecting items from the D.C. march, as well as other local women's marches. They include the Bishopsgate Institute in London and the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. "We knew [the march] was a very important moment in London protest history, so we were very keen to make sure it was recorded," Stef Dickers, special collections and archives manager at the Bishopsgate Institute, told Fortune magazine.

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