Academic institutions and museums have been busy preserving as much Occupy Wall Street detritus as they can get their hands on, including everything from posters to banners to tweets on Twitter. The Associated Press reports that The Smithsonian, the New-York Historical Society, the Museum of Jewish Heritage and others have been archiving a wide range of materials for posterity. Naturally, there's some grumbling about it from people on opposing ends of the political spectrum.
On the right, conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch points out that government-funded institutions like The Smithsonian are wasting taxpayer money collecting hippie garbage, instead of putting that money to good use drowning themselves in a bathtub, or something. "It looks like it's taxpayer-funded hoarding, as opposed to rigorous historical collecting," Tom Fitton, president of the organization, tells the AP. And some of the occupiers also have mixed feelings about how established institutions will shape the narrative off their movement.
Occupy Wall Street has its own "archives working group," and one of its members says that while they appreciate the institutions' interest, it would be preferable for archivists to collaborate with them, instead of just collecting items without input from protesters. But in this fascinating article, The Brooklyn Ink reports the archive group’s request for $3,940 to cover storage, transportation and equipment costs was not approved at an Occupy Wall Street budget meeting last month. So the archives working group is considering donating its entire collection of materials to the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University. Meanwhile, the online Occupy Archive site, run by The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, currently has over 2,500 OWS-related items.
But whether protesters and conservatives like it or not, there's no stopping the movement to document the movement. Staff at the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University, for instance, have set up a system to download and archive tweets about Occupy. "So far, they have harvested more than 5 million tweets from more than 600,000 unique Twitter users," the AP reports. (It's believed that at least half of those OWS tweets were posted by a single Twitter user named @NewYorkist.) The New York Public Library has also added Occupy periodicals to its collection, and The Museum of the City of New York is planning an exhibition on Occupy for next month.
"Occupy is sexy," Queens College archivist Ben Alexander tells the AP. "It sounds hip. A lot of people want to be associated with it." Indeed, everyone from Kanye West to, uh, Third Eye Blind wants a piece. And you know there's going to be at least 50 Fringe Festival shows this year riffing on Occupy Wall Street, closely followed by a RENT-esque Occupy Wall Street Broadway rock musical, Occupy My Heart, concerning two attractive young protesters who fall in love working at the OWS library, only to be torn apart by a sinister yet stylishly dressed police detective determined to send them to prison for drumming after curfew.