Documentation and digitization (April, 2017). Photo courtesy of the Art of the March.
The Art of the March, an initiative spearheaded by a group of faculty and students within Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) to archive thousands of signs from the 2017 Boston Women’s March, is now online. A yearlong project, the searchable database of 6,000 protest signs, available here, is intricately tagged and categorized so that users can search a variety of relevant terms to instantly see a number of results.
Dietmar Offenhuber and Nathan Felde, both faculty members in CAMD’s Art and Design Department, along with Alessandra Renzi, a former Northeastern faculty member, spearheaded the project last year. Immediately following the historic Women’s March, they hosted an event to unpack, tag, catalog, and photograph all of the protest posters they had collected in its aftermath. The signs had been placed by protesters on the iron fence of the Boston Commons Central Burying Grounds and along its perimeter as the march ended.
Now organized and archived for everyone to see, this impressive collection reveals a wealth of information on contemporary civil society in an age of political polarization and where instant social communication is networked.
“I think one of the most intriguing aspects is that most topics and issues that dominated this presidency have already been foreshadowed in the signs brought to the march,” said Dietmar.
He explains that the website’s basic tabulation of concerns and themes expressed include resistance (2,549), women’s rights (1,652), feminism (1,517), trump (1,276), love (1,044), gender equality (964), reproductive rights (520), lgbtq (469), hate (464), race (402), civil rights (369), and institutions/supreme court/political parties (328).
The website itself, which is user-friendly and fun to use, was built by Navarjun Grewal, who is pursuing his MFA in Information Design and Visualization (IDV) and designed by Colleen Curtis, pursuing her BFA in Graphic and Information Design. The tagging and categorization was also thanks to a group of talented CAMD students: Alix Alto, Elena Chace, Jessica Imbro, Zoe Gregoric, Abhishek Majumdar, Samantha Cohen, Collen Nugent, Plamedi Makelela, Carly Davis, and Kaley Elizabeth Bachelder.
The initiative has already garnered national media attention, most recently being featured in an article in The Boston Globe and a segment on WGBH. We are excited to see the next phase of this project unfold, which includes a visualization by Siqi Zhu, an Adjunct Faculty member in Art and Design. Be sure to also check out the student-made micro documentary exploring the Art of the March Living Archive Project and the impact of protest signs in our democratic society: https://vimeo.com/247390294