Smithsonian, New York Historical Society collecting materials from Occupy Wall Street

Pin it

As the home of the Star-Spangled Banner, the Apollo lunar landing module, and Henry "The Fonz" Winkler's leather jacket, the Smithsonian hosts thousands of priceless artifacts from American history. Soon, your mustard-stained "Occupy Sesame Street" T-shirt will be joining these illustrious ranks as part of the Smithsonian's effort to collect OWS materials for their archives. The Smithsonian is joined in their efforts by a half-dozen other major museums and organizations collecting posters, buttons, signs, and other memorabilia from the movement. Researchers are also amassing an impressive collection of OWS-related tweets, blog posts, and websites to add to their digital databases.

Although it might seem weird to start trying to archive a movement that kicked off in September, curators and archivists at institutions like the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the New York Historical Society, and the Museum of the City of New York — which is planning an OWS exhibition for next month — say that now is a perfect time to start thinking about preserving this part of history. "We want to make sure we can collect it from our perspective so that it can be represented as best as possible," Amy Roberts, a grad student who's assisting with the OWS archives at Queens College, says. Head of special collections and archives at Queens College Ben Alexander sums up his interest in the Occupy movement more bluntly: "Occupy is sexy. It sounds hip. A lot of people want to be associated with it." Whether museum-goers in the next few decades will find OWS as "hip" and "sexy" as, say, the Fonz's leather jacket, only time will tell.