Archiving Social Movements

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 8.52.53 PMOn November 17, a few MARC members attended a wonderful talk titled “Diversity in the Archives: Preserving Ephemeral Activist Culture,” organized by Temple University Libraries. A summary would not do justice to the quality of the speakers, so what follows is just a list of the exciting projects they are working on.

Bergis Jules, UC Riverside Libraries, and Ed Summers, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, presented their project on #BlackLivesMatter, through which they collected and archived millions of tweets regarding the protest. The project started with the collection of 13 millions tweets containing the word “Ferguson,” which they gathered between August 10 and August 27, 2014. The project later continued to collect tweets with other hashtags, such as #FreddieGray, #BaltimoreUprising, #SayHerName, and many others.

Ed Summers presented his script, twarc, that queries the Twitter API and retrieves and archives tweets in .json format. He also discussed a couple of other tools for scraping and archiving Twitter: Social Feed Manager, TAGS, Archive-it. They can do slightly different things and require no coding skills.

Meredith Evans, at Washington University in St. Louis, has also been involved in archiving materials about the Ferguson protests and created Documenting Ferguson, an online resource through which people can access images and videos about Ferguson that were created and uploaded by community members. At the moment, the archive displays 750 contributions.

Lastly, Justin Hill and Margery Sly of Temple Libraries discussed the Occupy Philadelphia archive, now hosted in the Urban Archives at Temple. Justin was involved in the movement in Philly and set up an Archiving Working Group within Occupy, with the goal of preserving as much material as possible – which is now conveniently accessible through the Libraries at Temple University.

The panel was a great way to think about digital and traditional archives and how they might help social movements make sense of themselves. Margery Sly, in particular, pointed to how archives can help preserve the memory of previous social movements and situate activism in longer trajectories of struggle.

Elisabetta Ferrari, Ph.D. Student, University of Pennsylvania

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