After the rally was done and after the speeches and chants, many of the tens of thousands of people who had gathered in January for the Boston Women’s March protesting Donald Trump’s presidency dropped the signs they carried along Boston Common.
The signs were destined for the trash, but a group from Northeastern University is trying to preserve and catalog as many as it can.
This weekend, Northeastern archivists and staff members will begin the painstaking process of organizing the massive assortment of discarded slogans on homemade signs.
At “The Art of the March” event in South Boston Saturday and Sunday, volunteers will work alongside archivists, scholars, and professors and sift through boxes, unpack the signs, tag each one, and then catalog and photograph them, preparing them for display online and possible museum exhibits.
Because space is limited and dozens of people have already signed up for the event, organizers are no longer seeking participants. But the group is encouraging people to get in touch if they have technical or professional skills that may aid in the process.
The goal is to preserve the creative and clever slogans and messages that were written on posterboards during the historic march, which took place one day after Trump’s inauguration.
The demonstration was one of more than 600 held around the world. An estimated 175,000 people attended the Boston event, including state and local elected officials who delivered remarks ahead of a 1-mile march.
After the event, crowds dispersed as many attendees discarded their protest signs near a fence bordering the public park.
The placement of the signs created an unintentional art gallery. At the request of the city, park employees were prepared to gather the posters together and throw them away.
But Alessandra Renzi, Dietmar Offenhuber, and Nathan Felde, professors at the College of Arts, Media, and Design at Northeastern, asked workers if they could round up some of the signs before they were put in the garbage.
The trio rented a van, pulled up to the fence, and began stashing as many posterboards as possible into the vehicle, with the help of passersby and volunteers. The group then drove the signs to a storage unit.
In the end, the group of professors managed to salvage more than a thousand individual signs that they say speak to the “broad scope of diverse voices, ideas, opinions, illustrations, calligraphy, graphics, and artful expressions” from the march.
Felde said the signs sorted this weekend will be shipped to New York, where a museum will take the posters for a future exhibit.
He said a selection of some of the more remarkable posters will be curated for a local art gallery at a later date, while images of the entire collection will live online.
Organizers will not be accepting new signs to be part of the collection. However, those who may have saved their own posters and want them to be included in the record can submit a digital version through Northeastern’s Snell Library website.
Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.