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Note: This news was originally published on Oct. 20, 2011 on the National Museum of American History's website.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has an ongoing commitment to document the spirit of American democracy and the American political process, including how people express their points of view through political rallies, demonstrations and protests.
Most recently, the museum sent representatives to collect materials related to what has become known as the Occupy Wall Street protests and their various offshoots. This is part of the museum’s long tradition of documenting how Americans participate in the life of the nation. The museum collects from contemporary events because many of these materials are ephemeral and if not collected immediately they are lost to the historical record.
The museum’s political history collection includes objects related to presidential history and political campaigning, as well as the history of the White House and first ladies, civil rights, women’s suffrage and reform movements, and labor history. There are objects that are more than 225 years old, such as the desk Jefferson used to draft the Declaration of Independence, as well as the inkwell Lincoln used to write the Emancipation Proclamation and protest signs carried during the 1963 March on Washington.
Recent acquisitions include materials from the Obama/McCain Presidential campaigns, the Tea Party rally in March 2010, Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally and Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity.” The most recent are from the American Conservative Union’s CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in February and from the protests at the Wisconsin state capitol in March.
There are no plans for a display.
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