One of the best parts about preparing for our Archives Month Philly Event (this year our event, “By the Book: Making–And Breaking!–The Rules,” is on October 25) is looking at my colleagues’ favorite finds. This year, Abby Lang suggested an amazing collection of posters, Celebrate people’s history, compiled by Josh MacPhee, a designer, artist, and archivist who is a founding member of both the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and Interference Archive. He is also an author and editor and clearly interested in social justice.
According to the Justseeds Artists Cooperative website, “this cloth-bound box set documents the first 18 years and 100 posters in the Celebrate People’s History Poster series. The posters are rooted in the do-it-yourself tradition of mass-produced and distributed political propaganda, but detourned to embody principles of democracy, inclusion, and group participation in the writing and interpretation of history. It’s rare today that a political poster is celebratory, and when it is, it almost always focuses on a small canon of male individuals: MLK, Ghandi, Che, or Mandela. Rather than create another exclusive set of heroes, I’ve generated a diverse set of posters that bring to life successful moments in the history of social justice struggles. To that end, I’ve asked artists and designers to find events, groups, and people who have moved forward the collective struggle of humanity to create a more equitable and just world. The posters tell stories from the subjective position of the artists, and are often the stories of underdogs, those written out of history. The goal of this project is not to tell a definitive history, but to suggest a new relationship to the past.”
Each poster is offset printed and the box set includes a letterpress printed half-title sheet with curator’s statement. One of the amazing things about these posters is that despite the date of the event, so many of them are completely relevant today. We still worry about the same issues: African American rights, Native American rights, gender equality, workers’ rights, environmental issues, and animal rights. Every single poster is beautiful, powerful, and educational.
Researchers–come to the reading room to check out these images; students–use these images in your papers and projects, and everyone–come to see just one of these beauties displayed at our Archives Month event as an example of people who challenged the rules!