Signs of the Times: Archiving Signs from the Women’s March as Pop Art
By Caroline Croasdaile
“What do we want? Evidence Based Science! When do we want it? After Peer Review!”
“In England Trump means fart. #PresidentFart”
“I’ve seen smarter cabinets in Ikea”
“So bad, even introverts are here”
These are some of the more memorable slogans taken from Women’s March signs that paraded the streets this week on January 21, 2017. On this day, women and their allies gathered in major metropolis’s all over the world to, “march, speak, and make our voices heard” according to womensmarch.com. Estimates of the turnout in Washingtion D.C., which served as the axis point for the movement, ranges everywhere from 500,000 to 4 million, with claims that it was the second busiest day for public transport in the city ever, just behind President Obama’s inauguration.
The protestors didn’t turn up empty-handed. The crowds brought with them hundreds of thousands of homemade signs that ranged in content from the heartfelt and profound, to witty and satirical. After the event concluded, many participants of the march left their signs in front of Trump Tower in New York City, or Trump Hotel in Washington D.C as a statement to the new and controversial Commander in Chief. On the fence in front of the White House, Women’s March signs formed a veritable wall- recalling to mind President Trump’s desire to build a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico.
However, Trump’s residence and his properties may not be the final destination for these signs. Museums, libraries, and galleries around the world are recognizing the social and historical significance of the Women’s March signs and are currently working hard to collect and archive them as a representation of this day in history. Many of these organizations took to social media to inform the public of their efforts to collect signs, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
The New York Historical Society is also collecting items from the Women’s Marches, and announced, “We collected approximately 20 signs in D.C. and New York City, as well as several buttons, hats, flyers and stickers...but anticipate that many more items will flow in over the next few weeks as people respond to our outreach efforts”. In the United Kingdom the Bishopsgate Institute Library is collecting paraphernalia from the protest as well.
Stef Dickers, special collections and archives manager at the Bishopsgate Institute, a cultural institute in London, told Fortune magazine, "We knew [the march] was a very important moment in London protest history, so we were very keen to make sure it was recorded," "History doesn't end in 1945. History is made every day."
It is often said that history is written by the victors- and while it is impossible yet to calculate the success of the Women’s March in enacting global change, its place in history is certainly already being secured with the help of its social protest signs.