The Women’s March in Los Angeles brought thousands of people to the streets of Downtown on Jan. 21. As protesters rallied for women’s rights, however, it was the posters that received attention. “Not my president,” “My rights are not for grabs” and “Ladies, let’s get in formation” were just a few of the sayings emblazoned on the posters.
Now, the USC Special Collections Library is working to collect these posters, in addition to flyers, hats and other remnants from the protest to preserve in its archives.
Susan Luftschein, the head librarian of Special Collections, explained why the department decided to start the collection and archive.
“We thought it was important to document this event, not only because it was a historic event but also because it took place here in Los Angeles,” Luftschein said. “And one of our collective strengths is on Los Angeles and the history of Southern California.”
Luftschein said that Special Collections is not currently planning on putting the archived objects up for display, but this is a desired objective. The department wants to give visual representation to the political activity occurring and to help foster even more of it at USC.
The Special Collections department has been taking in packages filled with posters, pins and hats, all of which are elements representative of the event that occurred on Jan. 21. Michaela Ullmann, a librarian of the department, curates the submissions.
“For me personally, since I’ve been the one who gets to interact with all these people who are sending posters, it’s interesting because they are also submitting stories,” Ullmann said. “Often times it’s not just getting a poster but also getting a background story.”
According to Ullmann, there is a broader context to the signs when the people are the backstory behind the signs. The range of people who participated in the march is then expanded.
One contributor was a survivor of cancer, while another submitted a poster saying her two daughters had made their submitted poster.
Jessica Brier, a Ph.D. candidate for art history, gave further insight to the importance of collecting posters from the Women’s March.
“I would say that ephemera that comes from an event like the Women’s March gives a kind of lasting sense of something that is really hard to recreate or a memory that these things did exist,” Brier said.
According to Brier, the posters preserve the messages and highlight the current political climate many people hope to address. The creativity brought to the posters shows just how inspired people were by political activism at the march.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Women’s March was expected to be one the largest post-inauguration demonstrations in history. The trinkets from the march became novelties, reminders of the march’s image as people flooded the streets of downtown LA to peacefully protest what they believed to be unjust, Brier said.
“The L.A. Women’s March becomes a symbol of a wider movement,” Brier said. “These posters and ephemera from the march became emblems of the movement.”
Daphne Armstrong, a freshman majoring in international relations, participated in the Women’s March and donated her poster to the library.
“It’s wonderful that the library is preserving the message and feelings of the march embodied by these signs,” Armstrong said. “It gives our effort that much more validity. I hope these signs remind and inspire us to keep fighting for equality and standing up for what is right.”
Posters are being accepted by the Special Collections department on the second floor of Doheny Library.