Archives of Social Protest and Social Change

Image adapted from photo by Arash Azizzada

Although many archives across the country contain selected materials related to social protest and social change, some institutions have highly specialized collections devoted to documenting the history of protests, riots, uprisings, and social movements. Generations of librarians, archivists, historians, and curators have worked to assemble primary source documentation focused on social protest.

Archival luminary, Jerry Ham, challenged archivists to take a more active and creative role in documenting a broader range of culture in 1975. By the 1980s, the prevailing national political climate had chilled earlier archival enthusiasm for protest collections. Sarah Cooper’s 1987 essay examines the ebbs and flows in the American effort to document social protest and social change. Despite these fluctuations in popularity, significant collections of these materials remain at institutions committed to following their collecting missions.

I’ve selected a handful of collections devoted to social protest and social change. Meant as a starting point, this list identifies long-standing archives, along with several newer collections and digital aggregations of archival material.

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