Activist Archives

A small number of institutions, some small and regional, others global and backed by significant resources are dedicated to collecting, archiving and making available the products, narratives and miscellany of social movements and art projects that seek to work for social and environmental justice. Below is a range of projects whose archives offer significant resources for activists, curators, researchers and the public.

CSPG Centre for the Study of Political Graphics

CSPG Centre for the Study of Political Graphics

The Center for the Study of Political Graphics (CSPG) serves as an educational and research archive, amassing over 90,000 human rights and protest posters. Through traveling and online exhibitions, as well as publications, CSPG leverages the visual power of more than three decades of collected political art to educate and inspire action. This international community of artists, activists, donors, curators, students, and teachers collaborates to bring attention to hidden and forgotten histories of social struggles. With a diverse collection spanning the 19th century to the present, CSPG relies on poster donations to represent a broad spectrum of global movements.

DIGITAL TRANSGENDER ARCHIVE

DIGITAL TRANSGENDER ARCHIVE

The Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) in Boston, Massachusetts, aims to enhance accessibility to transgender history through a global collaboration. Hosted at Northeastern University, the DTA is an alliance spanning universities, nonprofits, libraries, and private collections. By digitizing historical and born-digital materials, the archive addresses challenges of dispersion and varied processing in repositories worldwide. It adopts an inclusive view of transgender practices, treating it as a dynamic rather than fixed category, facilitating a trans-historical and trans-cultural collection. Overcoming language barriers and limited online visibility, the DTA provides a unified search engine, offering a comprehensive entry point for researchers and educators into the expansive realm of trans history.

Grūtas Park:
Grūto Parkas Stalin’s World

Grūtas Park: Grūto Parkas Stalin’s World

Grūtas Park, also known as Stalin’s World, emerged from Lithuania’s post-independence era when Soviet-era monuments faced an uncertain fate. During 1989-91, as Lithuania restored its independence, ideologically charged statues were dismantled, risking damage or destruction. Hesonos klubas agency, led by Viliumas Malinauskas, won a 1998 Ministry of Culture tender to create an exposition using private funds. Grūtas Park opened in 2001 near Druskininkai, showcasing these dismantled sculptures. Malinauskas’ initiative not only preserved historical artifacts but also created a unique tourist site, contributing to the development of Southern Lithuania and offering insight into the region’s complex past

International Centre of Art for Social Change

International Centre of Art for Social Change

Renowned for its six-year national research study on community-engaged art (CEA)/art for social change (ASC), involving six universities and 50 researchers, ICASC serves as a global resource. Offering professional development, public outreach, and networking, it conducts workshops, conferences, and dialogues, fostering collaboration and knowledge-building in the field. With a commitment to sharing ASC resources online, the website hosts an extensive direrctory of socially enaged art projects across the globe. ICASC also champions policy changes through advocacy efforts, contributing to the evolution of the sector. The center’s innovative FUTURES/forward mentorship initiative pairs emerging artists with seasoned practitioners, promoting collaboration for social change. This program subsidizes both mentors and mentee to partner with environmental NGOs to create community engaged projects over six to seven months.

International Institute of Social History

International Institute of Social History

Established in 1935, the International Institute of Social History (IISH) is a global research institute based in Amsterdam, affiliated with the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1979. Focused on the last five centuries, IISH conducts influential research on the worldwide history of work and labor relations. Emphasizing global comparative history, the institute explores the intricate links between labor relations and social and economic inequality. Actively disseminating findings, collaborating on international projects, and engaging with societal partners, IISH seeks to deepen understanding of historical and contemporary societal issues.
The IISH holds nearly 5,000 archives, more than 1,000,000 printed volumes and an equivalent number of audio-visual items including many posters, which are available to the public. An extensive archive can be accessed online.

Museum of Arte Útil

Museum of Arte Útil

The Museum of Arte Útil, curated by Tania Bruguera, is a collection and online archive spotlighting socially impactful art projects. Translated as ‘useful art,’ Arte Útil views art as a tool, extending beyond aesthetics. Bruguera’s decade-long exploration, spanning Havana, New York, and Eindhoven, delves into how individuals and groups navigate societal challenges through self-organization and user-generated content. The museum showcases global case studies, revealing a collective effort reshaping contemporary society. Defined by criteria established by Bruguera and curators, Arte Útil emerges as a dynamic force, illustrating art’s potential as a catalyst for meaningful social change.

Museum of Protest

Museum of Protest

The Museum of Protest is dedicated to the complex global history of protest and social movements, emphasizing public engagement and honoring those who fought for justice and change. It values diverse opinions and encourages dialogue through critical engagement with exhibitions, aiming to educate on protest history and tactics. With a commitment to historical accuracy, the museum promotes peaceful protest and human rights, continuously updating to reflect the persistent nature of protest. It champions sustainability and inclusivity, aspiring to inspire active societal participation for a more just future.

People’s History Museum

People’s History Museum

The People’s History Museum in Manchester, UK, is the national museum of democracy, delving into the evolution of democracy in Britain from the past to the future. It explores radical stories of collective action for noble causes, empowering visitors to drive positive change. Rooted in values of justice and solidarity, the museum champions inclusivity, addressing issues like racism, trans inclusion, and supporting sanctuary seekers. With a commitment to authenticity, its collection tells diverse narratives boldly, challenging perspectives while fostering hope for a fairer future. The museum invites all to engage in exploring the past’s ideas, creativity, and actions to inspire meaningful change and promote empathy, compassion, and awareness of diverse experiences and challenges.

People’s design archive

People’s design archive

The People’s Design Archive is an online repository dedicated to preserving and sharing the expansive and inclusive history of graphic design and culture. This virtual archive encompasses a wide range of materials, from digital images of finished projects to process documentation, photos, letters, oral histories, anecdotes, and published or unpublished articles. The platform encourages users to contribute their graphic design history treasures, emphasizing a collective effort to recognize and safeguard the diverse heritage of graphic design and culture. With a mission to create an accessible and comprehensive virtual archive, the People’s Design Archive invites everyone to explore, be inspired, conduct research, or simply enjoy the rich tapestry of graphic design history.

Social Art Library

Social Art Library

The Social Art Library, an initiative by Axis, addresses the lack of infrastructure connecting social practice artists and the wider art world. Recognizing the often amorphous nature of social projects, emphasizing process and relationships, the library aims to enhance visibility for the field. Facilitating access to knowledge from social projects, it enables collaboration, understanding, and learning beyond those directly involved. In partnership with the Social Art Network and supported by the Art Fund, the library began commissioning artists during the 2020 lockdown. Led by artists Lucy Wright and R.M Sánchez-Camus, with support from Axis, the Social Art Library is committed to showcasing diverse stories and experiences in the history of social art.