Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: FB9.A100.968p2

May 1968 Paris poster collection

Overview

Posters related to the seven weeks of demonstrations, general strikes, and occupation of universities and factories that took place in Paris and across France beginning in May 1968.

Dates

  • 1967-1975

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials in French unless otherwise specified in file-level records.

Physical Description

Posters are in a variety of different conditions. Many posters were mounted on linen backing prior to this acquisition. Although the linen backing is fraying at the edges in some cases, these posters are well-preserved and in good condition. Posters that have no backing are made of thin paper. Several of these have holes, tears, and torn corners, and must be handled carefully. Two oversized posters are folded for storage due to size concerns. Other posters were apparently torn down from the walls where they were pasted. Fragments of other paper have adhered to the versos of these, creating a rough, stiff, and uneven surface. See individual item records for precise physical details, including poster dimensions.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

This collection is partially shelved offsite. Retrieval may require advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine retrieval policies and times.

Extent

.4 linear feet (1 box and 16 folders)

Includes posters created by art students working in the Atelier Populaire during the May 1968 Paris protests, with others produced by Rouge, the journal of the Communist League, as well as the publication Tribune Socialiste, and the Council for Maintaining the Occupations (CMDO), a revolutionary committee formed during the protests. Themes expressed by the posters include the power of workers and students; the need to unite with immigrants; distrust for the Office de radiodiffusion-télévision française (ORTF); grievances against conservative French President Charles de Gaulle; anger with capitalism; support for Palestine and the Viet Cong; and commentary on Mao Zedong. Posters produced after the events of May 1968 reflect the need for continued protest, organization, and struggle.

Biographical / Historical

Beginning in May 1968, a period of civil unrest occurred throughout France, lasting seven weeks and punctuated by demonstrations, general strikes, and the occupation of universities and factories. The unrest began with a series of far-left student occupation protests against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions. Heavy police repression of the protesters led France's trade union confederations to call for sympathy strikes, which spread far more quickly than expected to involve 11 million workers, more than 22% of France's population at the time. The national government briefly ceased to function after President Charles de Gaulle secretly fled France to West Germany on the 29th. It was the largest general strike ever attempted in France, and the first nationwide wildcat general strike. The protests are sometimes linked to similar movements around the same time worldwide that inspired a generation of protest art in the form of songs, imaginative graffiti, posters, and slogans.

Biographical / Historical

Atelier Populaire (Popular Workshop) was created during the May 1968 Paris protests when a group of Marxist students from École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (an institution of art education in Paris) occupied a lithography studio on their campus and began mass-producing protest posters using silkscreen printing. Artists in the Atelier Populaire produced over 500 different poster designs and distributed them free of charge. The studio was cleared by police on June 28, 1968, but the printing press used by Atelier Populaire was not located.

Arrangement

Loosely arranged by size.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Custodial History

The posters associated with the accession number 2018M-103 were previously part of the Laurent Storch collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2016M-88. Purchased (lots 330-331, 333, 336, 339-340) at auction Affiches, Tessier & Sarrou et Associés (via Carl Williams), with the Stanley Marcus Endowment for Rare Books, 2016 November 18.

2018M-103. Purchased (lots 158, 161, 188, 194, 203, 207-208, 216, 243, 248, 263, 281, 300, 307, 310, 333, 349, 356, 359, 390, 393, 409, 439, 454, 475, 490, 496, 511, 516, 522-523, 533) at auction Artprecium (via Carl Williams) with the Bayard Livingston and Kate Gray Kilgour Fund, 2018 February 28.

2018M-103. Purchased (lots 7, 53, 66, 69-70, 73-74, 78-78, 81, 117, 121, 126, 131, 155, 189, 196, 203, 205, 242, 253, 308, 320, 324, 338, 350, 353, 359-360, 376, 408, 423, 450, 454, 457) at auction Artcurial, sale of 12 March 2018 (via Carl Williams), with the Bayard Livingston and Kate Gray Kilgour Fund, the Stanley Marcus Endowment for Rare Books, the Parkman D. Howe Fund, the Thomas W. Streeter Fund, and the Gore Vidal Endowment Fund for Arts and Letters, 2018 March 16.

Related Materials

For related material, see the Julio Mario Santo Domingo May 1968 Paris protest collection (call number (FB9.A100.968p).

Processing Information

Processed by Aurora Charlow, 2023.

Creator

Title
May 1968 Paris poster collection, 1967-1975 (FB9.A100.968p2): Guide
Status
completed
Author
Houghton Library, Harvard University
Date
2022 August 8
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
eng
EAD ID
hou03496

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

Contact:
Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2440