The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, a repository within NYU Special Collections, is located in Lenapehoking, so-called “New York City,” the unceded lands of the Lenape people. Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people live in New York City, and their care for the land and water, their cultures, and their communities persists in the face of ongoing settler colonialism. We are uninvited guests on these lands.
Indigenous people across Turtle Island have always been at the forefront of movement work that confronts the violence of white supremacist capitalism. At the outset of Occupy Wall Street, Indigenous people called into question what it meant to “occupy” stolen Indigenous lands. Who exactly were the 99% if the Occupy movement failed to include Indigenous people and forefront Indigenous sovereignty? How could a movement seek to disrupt corrupt governments, and corporate wealth, without acknowledging their colonial legacies and without recognizing the ways settler colonialism was ingrained in the tactics, frameworks, and language of the movement itself?
We uplift Indigenous-led defense of the lands and waters against deforestation, fracking, pipelines, overfishing, and settler destruction of fragile ecosystems. At present, there are more than seventeen land and water defense actions and blockades taking place across Turtle Island. Indigenous Two Spirit, Queer, Femme, and youth activists are at these frontlines.
This digital exhibit would not be possible without the Occupy Wall Street Archives Working Group’s generous donation of the Occupy Wall Street Archives Working Group collection. We are grateful to them for their trust in our ability to responsibly care for, and provide access to, their records. This exhibition also uses selections of materials from the John Penley Photographs and Papers collection, and materials that were collected and assembled as a part of our Printed Ephemera on Subjects collection, for which much of the Occupy materials were donated by Robert Reiss.
In response to the pandemic, we made the difficult decision to refocus the scope and overall framing of this exhibit, and we transformed it from an installation in our exhibition space to a digital experience. This transition was made less challenging due to the support of many of our colleagues.
Marii Nyrop, who works with NYU Libraries Digital Scholarship Services, designed Wax, the open source software on which this exhibition is built. Without Marii’s guidance, care, and technical expertise, this exhibition would not be possible. Michael Stasiak and Carol Kassel, who work with NYU Libraries Digital Library and Technology Services, produced the digital photography for the oversized collection material in the exhibit. Web Archivist Nicole Greenhouse both documented Occupy's web presence at the time of the movement and initiated the idea to incorporate links to these web archives here. Nicole’s work significantly broadens the kinds of materials you are able to engage with in this exhibit.
Our colleagues in the Barbara Goldsmith Conservation and Preservation Department, including Dawn Mankowski, Lou Di Gennaro, and Laura McCann have ensured that the Occupy collection materials has been carefully preserved, and they additionally re-assessed the collection materials prior to their digitization. We are grateful to all of our colleagues in Special Collections for their ongoing support and feedback, and especially to Felix Esquivel who managed the movement of the collections as we worked on this exhibit. Within Archives Collections Management Amy C. Vo, Anna McCormick, and Weatherly Stephan coordinated the incorporation of newly scanned materials into the Occupy Wall Street Archives Working Group finding aid. The Occupy Wall Street Archives Working Group Records were processed by Megan O’Shea, and were updated by Rachel Searcy and Amy C. Vo.
NYU has adopted the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA as its standard for digital accessibility.
In addition to following these guidelines, we utilized a suite of accessibility evaluation tools so that our exhibit is more accessible to individuals with disabilities. We have also included alt-text and image descriptions to provide vital information to Blind and low vision people.
Occupy Wall Street was highly surveilled by the NYPD and the United States Government. We expect that people who participated in Occupy, who remain involved in various movement work, continue to be surveilled. While our agreements allow for us to freely exhibit collections, we want to present a digital exhibition that does not aid the carceral state in its efforts to harass and intimidate activists. Where full names and personal contact information are present in the documents, we made the decision to redact that data. Similarly, where protesters' faces were visible in photographs, we cropped those photos such that the information we intended to convey is still visible, but the activists' faces are not.
This exhibit examines topics like white supremacy, settler colonialism, police brutality, racism, sexual assault, cissexism, transphobia, and ableism that are harmful and triggering. We take your safety as a participant in this exhibit seriously and we have added content warnings so that you may opt out of interacting with various aspects of this exhibit.
This exhibition is organized around Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration of the Occupation of New York City and thirteen themes, both of which point to central issues within the movement. While the Declaration was drafted by the Call to Action Working Group and ratified by the New York City General Assembly (NYCGA) on September 29, 2011, the themes were identified, authored, and presented by the curators of this exhibit.
For many of the cardboard protest signs, we have incorporated the opposite sides, or versos, of the sign even when there is not a message or writing by a protestor. We felt it was important to communicate the materiality of the movement, which had a D.I.Y. (do it yourself) ethic and aesthetic. Activists often utilized whatever objects were readily available in order to share their message. This sometimes meant grabbing a writable surface from a nearby trash can or recycling pile, or using one’s pizza box from lunch. In this way, you will experience repurposed bulk shipping cases, office supplies boxes, takeout and food containers, and receptacles labeled as if they were from recent household moves—all of which were transformed into protest signage.
Rights for material in this exhibition vary. We are making material in this exhibition available on a noncommercial basis for research and educational purposes. A comprehensive rights statement is included for each of the documents represented. You can read these individual rights statements when you navigate to a particular document’s description page.
If you are a rights holder, and are concerned that you have found material in this digital exhibition for which you have not granted permission (or is not covered by a copyright exception under US copyright laws), you may request the removal of the material from our site by submitting a notice to us. The NYU Libraries Take Down Notice policy shares more information on both our policy and how to submit a request for removing material.
This exhibit was curated by Shannon O'Neill, Curator for Tamiment-Wagner Collections, and Michael Koncewicz, Michael Nash Archivist & Ewen Center Program Coordinator. It was launched on September 17, 2021. We may be contacted by email at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.