Friday, April 06, 2012

Archivists and the Occupy Wall Street movement

Check out this very interesting article from the Chronicle of Higher Education blog from April 3, 2012 about clashes between members of Occupy and archivists who want to document the movement.

The article opens with this line:
Howard Besser, a New York University archivist, recently got into a shouting match at an Occupy protest, making a case for why the activists should preserve records of their activities.

The article discusses how archivists have been working to document the Occupy Movement for future scholars within a community that is suspicious of formal organizations including universities and libraries. Archivists have had to come up with new ways of collecting information and documents including "distributing postcards promoting archiving at protests, developing automated systems to download photos posted online, and asking participants to vote on which images are most important for the historic record."

This is a really fascinating example of non-traditional document management and working with a community that doesn't necessarily trust traditional organizations' way of working, like the NYU library's request for a signed donor agreement that was denied by the group who did not want to tie themselves in the traditional hierarchical power system they are protesting. In response, many of the protestors are releasing images and videos under Creative Commons licenses as a way to self-document and disemminate information about the movement.

The author also mentions the dangers of self documenting and putting non-censored images up online, where both scholars and police can access them freely, and attempts to get document creators to add standardized metadata to their work.

Occupy now has an Archives Working Group of their own which you can check out through their website.

Exciting times in the world and for libraries and archives. I think this kind of archiving challenge will become more and more relevant in our current political and global information-driven world.

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