Protest actions-- in the form of boycotts, demonstrations, riots, property destruction, occupations, labor strikes, local activism, or works of art -- have spanned the political spectrum, defined generations, and shaped our uniquely American identity. The Oviatt’s compelling new exhibit, “In Protest: Shifting Paradigms and Collective Social Action,” which opened on September 17 and runs through July of 2014, contains approximately 200 items from the Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Together the collection documents dozens of distinct and significant social action movements over the course of the 20th century. “Collective social action movements have been a part of American life since the nation's earliest days, whether spontaneous expressions of dissent or high-reaching attempts to change society,” says Ellen Jarosz, Special Collections and Archives Librarian and curator of the exhibit.
The exhibition will be paired with a series of speakers and special events through the fall and spring semesters that will offer a variety of perspectives on this very diverse topic. The exhibit’s opening event featured a unique and highly personal question –and- answer session moderated by Los Angeles Times columnist Robin Abcarian. The panel for the evening included Ms. Abcarian’s father, Richard Abcarian, a CSUN emeritus professor, author, and protest movement activist of the 1960s and 1970s. Joining the Abcarians were Irving Sarnoff, the organizer of the 1967 Century City anti-war protest that turned unexpectedly violent. Also on hand was retired LAPD Deputy Chief Steven Downing, who was the police official inside the Century Plaza hotel command post during that same protest. All four panelists were present at the tumultuous 1967 Century City protest – including then eight-year-old Robin Abcarian – and the presentation’s format allowed each of them to share unique insights and some frightening recollections of what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration.
|Exhibition Opening Panelists: Robin Abcarian,
Richard Abcarian, Steven Downing, Irving Sarnoff
“In the 20th century, in particular, protest movements have so irrevocably changed society that the circumstances and motivations of individual participants, as well as the questions of who joins a movement and why they do so, have become the subject of intense study,” says Jarosz. The breadth of the subject matter is well represented by a wide variety of pamphlets, newspaper articles, political cartoons, and photos documenting various form of dissent from peaceful sit-ins to expressions of collective rage. Items on display include numerous materials documenting the Los Angeles Watts Riot of 1965, the Detroit Riot of 1967, the San Fernando Valley State (now CSUN) administration's response to riots on campus in the late 1960s, the Los Angeles Rodney King Riot of 1992, and US government reports about the use of riots and rioting by "subversive" or left-wing groups in developing nations. The ongoing exhibit is located in the Library Exhibit Gallery in the east wing on the Library’s second floor, and is open to the public free of charge during regular Library hours. For additional information about the upcoming event series related to “In Protest: Shifting Paradigms and Collective Social Action,” as well as up-to-date news about all Library events, please visit the Exhibitions and Events page on our Library website.