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Are Protest Signs And Mementos Meaningful Trash Or Historical Treasures?

A heart made of Post-It notes, part of Matthew Chavez's "Subway Therapy" project; one of the thousands of signs at the Boston Women's March on January 21, 2017.
Photo provided by Matthew Chavez/ Photo shot by WGBH News' Meredith Nierman

It’s been one year since the election of Donald Trump sparked a wave of grassroots public protests and demonstrations. Immediately following election day, one New Yorker spontaneously persuaded his fellow subway riders to express their emotions on Post-It notes in what became known as the Subway Therapy project. Two months later, millions of women answered the call to gather in Washington, D.C. for what turned out to be the now-historic Women’s March. Five million women marched worldwide, including in Boston, where 175,000 people flooded Boston Common and downtown Boston.

Both of these demonstrations resulted in thousands of signs, notes and mementos that, to many untrained eyes, could be considered trash. But for a group of Northeastern professors and activist Matthew Chavez, these items had a different meaning and a much deeper importance: They told a story of a place, a time and the emotions felt from their creators.

Callie Crossley speaks with one of the professors and Chavez about the importance of preserving this ephemera for future generations.


BONUS: Art of the March will go LIVE on Sunday, Jan. 21! Be sure to check out the whole digital archive here.

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