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US Museums, Libraries Collect Signs From Women's Protests


A woman holds a sign in a women's march during the first full day of Donald Trump's presidency in San Francisco, Jan. 21, 2017.

Homemade signs that protesters waved when marching against President Donald Trump across U.S. cities last weekend were being collected for posterity Tuesday by museums and libraries,
officials said.

The National Museum of American History in Washington and smaller institutions said they were collecting and sorting through protest signs they now considered records of nationwide protests of historic proportions.

Women activists, outraged by Trump's campaign rhetoric and behavior they found to be misogynistic, spearheaded scores of marches in the United States and sympathy rallies around the world on Saturday.

Trump, a Republican, insulted female reporters, a female political rival and other women about their looks, and a video surfaced in which he could be heard bragging about groping women and making unwanted sexual advances.

His behavior inspired a raft of signs handcrafted by protesters, many celebrated for their creativity, some saying, "Hey Trump! Women are people, too," and others reading, "Girls just wanna have fundamental human rights."

For future generations

The New-York Historical Society, the oldest museum in New York City, said its staffers had collected 20 signs at marches in Washington and New York City. It hoped some of the artifacts would speak to future generations about the mood of the current era.

"They have a personal story," said Margi Hofer, who heads the museum. "We're very confident that these will find their way into exhibitions."

Protesters build a wall of signs outside the White House for the Women's March on Washington during the first full day of Donald Trump's presidency, Jan. 21, 2017.
Protesters build a wall of signs outside the White House for the Women's March on Washington during the first full day of Donald Trump's presidency, Jan. 21, 2017.

Among the museum's best finds, which are preserved in acid-free folders and flat-file drawers, was a sign reading: "Strong women scare boys and excite men."

The National Museum of American History dispatched its curators to hunt for signs in the downtown Washington area where marchers amassed, it said in an online statement.

A day earlier, its political history curators were also on site to collect materials as Trump supporters swarmed the park to witness his inauguration as the country's 45th president.

"This is part of the museum's long tradition of documenting how Americans participate in the political process," it said.

Among other institutions recording the weekend's historic events were the libraries of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Southern California.

Chicago library

The Newberry Library, a famed research library in Chicago specializing in the humanities, said hundreds of messages of interest had poured in after it asked the public to donate their protest signs in Twitter messages.

A woman holds a sign at the Women's March in Atlanta, Jan. 21, 2017. The rally and march drew thousands of attendees, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who had been at odds with President Donald Trump leading up to the inauguration.
A woman holds a sign at the Women's March in Atlanta, Jan. 21, 2017. The rally and march drew thousands of attendees, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who had been at odds with President Donald Trump leading up to the inauguration.

The dozens of signs it had received so far added to "millions of items in [its] collection, ranging from medieval manuscripts to the signs that people marched with last Saturday," said Alex Teller, a spokesman for the library.

They will be part of a new collection focused on recording the social turmoil that has rocked the United States in recent years, including protests against racial injustice, Teller told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

"It seems like we've entered a period of time where political activism is shifting and changing, and more and more people are becoming involved in protest events," he said. "We wanted to make sure that we were documenting those shifts."

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