History Happening Now: St. Louis 2020

Do you have photographs, digital art, video, or other documentation of the protests and marches occurring in our communities? This is history happening now—and you can help save it for future generations.

many colored hands raisedWhen we are part of important events—such as the incredible movement of humans standing up and saying Black Lives Matter—capturing the moment in photos and video is a common reaction.

These visual digital records are powerful tools. They can be used for activism and organizing in the present. And when future generations want to know the history of these events, these documents provide vital firsthand perspectives.

“Documentation created today can be used for advocacy, evidence, education and historical memory, now and in the future.”
— WITNESS Archive

Absolutely! I want to save this history—but how?

  1. Take care of yourself first: Going back over photographs and videos of violence can be mentally draining or damaging. Just planning to work on saving them is a good first step.
  2. Get some info: Look over the resources listed below for ways you can ethically and safely* save your documentation of history for the long term.  
  3. Determine how and where you want to save your history: In a personal digital archive? By contributing to a collaborative effort at a museum or library, such as Documenting Ferguson? Some combination of these? 
  4. Reach out: If you have questions or just would like to talk more about the available resources and tools for saving history, contact an archivist to start a conversation.
*yes, saving is important, but before you post online, keep in mind:
  • Just because you can take someone’s photo at a protest doesn’t mean you should. The Blacktivists’ Five Tips for for Organizers, Protestors, and Anyone Documenting Movements offers a quick read of important ways to document events with ethics and respect.
  • Law enforcement can obtain images you upload to Facebook, Twitter, etc., even if you mark them as private—meaning they can be used against the people in your photos.
  • Anything that appears on social media, like Facebook or Twitter, can be deleted or taken down. These platforms are not the place to save for the long-term.

Project: Documenting Ferguson

In 2014, protests and uprisings occurred in Ferguson and the wider St. Louis area, prompted by the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police. Librarians and archivists at WashU realized that digital images and videos of these moments could easily be lost. A broken phone, lost password, or failed upload could mean that a vital portion of the region’s history would be gone. To provide a safe repository, Documenting Ferguson was quickly launched, offering a secure, free place for community members to archive these historic moments.

documenting ferguson

Get in touch

Have questions about saving your files for a personal archive? Interested in adding your files to the 2020 expansion of Documenting Ferguson? Or just wondering about ways to preserve history? Let us know by filling out this form, and a librarian or archivist will get in touch to start a conversation.

Resources for saving digital history

Since Documenting Ferguson launched six years ago, digital technology and the resources and tools available for archiving digital history have greatly expanded. Many lessons on how to archive social uprisings and protest movements in an ethical manner have been learned.

Linked here are some freely available resources, many created through the dedicated, hard work of archivists and activists who are black, indigenous, people of color:

General

The Blacktivists, a collective of trained black archivists who prioritize black cultural heritage preservation and memory work: www.theblackivists.com

Tips for documenting protests and police abuse: library.witness.org/product-tag/protests/

Documenting the Now: www.docnow.io/

Personal Digital Archiving Guide from the Library of Congress: www.digitalpreservation.gov/documents/ebookpdf_march18.pdf

Technical Tools AND Tips

Basic ways to save Facebook Live and Periscope videos: archiving.witness.org/2016/07/four-ways-save-live-video-broadcasts/

WITNESS Guide to Archiving Video: archiving.witness.org/archive-guide/

Downloading from Gmail, Google Drive, and other G products: support.google.com/accounts/answer/3024190

Internet Archive offers free personal accounts for adding to their world wide archive: help.archive.org/hc/en-us/articles/360002360111-Uploading-A-Basic-Guide

Recording mobile video for long-term preservation: open-archive.org/

Protecting the identities of people in photos: everestpipkin.github.io/image-scrubber/ (blurs faces and takes out digital metadata)

Audio memories and Oral History

Recording Selfie Videos: library.witness.org/product/tell-your-story-recording-a-selfie-video/

Story Corp App and Archive: archive.storycorps.org/

PixStori App to record your stories: www.pixstori.com/

Resources for organizations and groups

Archivists Supporting Activists, from DocNow: www.docnow.io/archivists-supporting-activists/

Omeka omeka.org/: Open-source publishing platform for sharing digital collections

Project STAND Archiving Student Activism Toolkit: standarchives.com/project-stand-toolkit/

Archives for Black Lives Matter (focused on work in Philadelphia, but relevant info for anyone): archivesforblacklives.wordpress.com/

S.A.V.E. Methodology for building archives: “Stop and check your intentions… Assess your relationship with historically underrepresented communities…  View your options… Educate and archive with care…”: standarchives.com/s-a-v-e-methodology/

Expanding #ArchivesForBlackLives to Traditional Archival Repositories: medium.com/on-archivy/expanding-archivesforblacklives-to-traditional-archival-repositories-b88641e2daf6#.fr1uexerh

Further readings on social justice in libraries and archives: libguides.wustl.edu/ld.php?content_id=30938720

Going Forward

This is just a start to the discussion toward documenting the full, deep, and complex history of the St. Louis region. If you are interested in talking about what it means to be a memory-keeper, how to do the work of documenting history as it happens, or just have questions, please get in touch using this online form or by email spec@wumail.wustl.edu

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.