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All of Us or None at the Oakland Museum

July 29, 2011

For forty years Berkeley activist Michael Rossman collected political posters, amassing likely the largest personal collection in the US. Michael was an amazing and generous guy, almost every trip I took to California for the past decade included a visit to his Berkeley home, plants and dogs taking over the place except for the pristine poster room, a sanctuary from the chaos in the rest of the house. Michael had built beautiful custom wooden cabinets to hold the hundreds of folders of posters he had collected, and he would pull them out one by one, showing off favorites and discussing his cataloging system.
Although I miss those trips (Michael died in 2008, RIP), archivist Lincoln Cushing has taken on the enormous task of organizing the collection (Michael had dubbed it the “All of Us or None Archive”), digitizing much of it, and working with the Oakland Museum to preserve it and make it accessible to the public. The initial fruits of their collective labor have ripened, and about 1,500 posters (maybe a 10th or less of the entire collection!) are up on the Oakland Museum website, and can be viewed HERE. One of the most important aspects of this is not just access to the images, but the thorough and largely thankless job Lincoln has taken on of finding out as much info as possible on each poster, including the artist, printer, year, and sometimes additional context. This material is invaluable to researchers and other poster artists trying to understand their history!

Lincoln tells me he has a five year plan for cataloging and digitizing the rest of the collection, and the Oakland Museum is planning a large scale exhibition of the collection in 2012, as well as a lavish accompanying catalog (both of which I can’t wait to see!).
Thanks to Michael and to Lincoln, for this amazing work and the gift they have given to social movement artists everywhere! Hooray!
image: Fireworks Graphics Collective, “Si Nicaragua Vencio, El Salvador Vencera! [Since Nicaragua could win, El Salvador will win!]”, c. 1975, screenprint, 18″ x 17.25″


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