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Recording history through Black Lives Matter art

Signs are posted in the section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Friday, June 26, 2020, across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington.   -  
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Susan Walsh/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


When thousands protesters descended on Washington in the summer of 2020, many brought with them hand-written posters. Nadine Seiler, an activist salvaged them from destruction and is now scanning and digitizing the items.

Away from prying eyes, a part of the United States' recent history is stored. Nadine Seiler, a Black lives matter activist rents a storage unit to preserve placards and items. Protesters attached the signs to a temporary fence around the White House, in the summer 2020, following the murder of African-American George Floyd. Nadine salvaged them from destruction. 

Unemployed and devoting all her time to guarding the memorial, she explains that during that time she struggled to pay her mortgage and almost lost her home in Waldorf, Maryland, near Washington."If there were no one watching that fence, it would have been destroyed. And I am glad that circumstances led me to be able to stay. I made some sacrifices, as I said, but I'm glad that I did, because people felt it was important to come and put their story there (on the fence, ed), and I'm glad I was able to stay there to keep their voices."

Placards reading "Cops stop Killing" or "Abolish the carceral state" feature just two of the hundreds of slogans protesters chanted during the historic mobilization against racism.

During nearly a year, Nadine Seiler voluntarily repaired the more than 300 taping signs back together and stored them. In order to protect them from the alteration of time the activist heads every six weeks to the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore where the placards are scanned and digitized.

For Jodi Hoover, the manager of digital resources at Enoch Pratt Free Library, this process is necessary: "It does feel like recording history, recording a particular moment in time. You know, Nadine has talked about people traveling from all over the US just to put their signs, to put their stories on the fence. I think that there's a lot of difficult content in this collection, there's a lot of things that, you know, people might be offended about, people might be surprised to find out. But I think it's important that we don’t try to diminish the reasons why the Black Lives Matter protests occurred."

At least 600 items have already undergone the meticulous process. Enoch Pratt Library collaborates on the project with Washington's public library.

Once the digitalization is completed, the two women plan to donate their collection to different associations, museums or interested businesses so that history may never be never forgotten.

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