Throughlines: Social Injustice and Activism Los Angeles

Project Description

This online interactive repository provides new access to a descriptive and underrecognized history of political contestation including the urban renewal movements of the mid-20th century, the activism of the expressway generation, and today’s Black Lives Matter protests. The necessity of creating and animating this history is most clearly highlighted by the fact that there was no consolidated archive of the historical images, dates, and events related to this phenomenon in existence prior to this project. We seek to increase the accessibility of past strategies and messaging relating to projects for social justice to empower new generations of activists, scholars, and students. The archives we make accessible are housed in governmental, academic, and other institutionally-owned buildings throughout the greater Los Angeles area. In all cases, these archives lack the linkages that may make them most useful to contemporary activist practice. It is productive to make these archives more accessible as it is often inspirational for current activists to realize that while mobilization for social change is usually difficult, it is possible and can succeed.

Following the concept of "thick mapping" developed by Presner in Hypercities(2014), our project, for the first time, uncovers temporal and historical dynamics of urban planning, gentrification, and countervailing advocacy efforts in Los Angeles by creating a digital repository that allows users to explore the multiplicity of interwoven narratives, audiovisual materials, and oral history recordings we gather from local archives. It is different from traditional mapping projects such as those of the Mapping Slavery NL or The Atlas of the Conflict Israel-Palestine in that its primary mode of presenting archival materials will not be maps, though maps will be one way of organizing information and for users to navigate through the archives.

In our online repository we collect and store images, videos and oral history footage from the Los Angeles Public Library, UCLA archives and Special Collections, and University of Southern California Special Collections, and other local archives. Our goal with this project is to provide a resource that would first, document the intersections of freeways, racial justice, and urban social movements in an easily-accessible website and second, promote sustained research and activism relating to this topic. Through the Scalar interface, users are able to curate their own path through the repository in a way that is best suited to their needs. For example, they may navigate through a timeline, map, images or scroll through archival records linked to particular subjects arising within an oral history, all the while developing relationships between past and present inhabitations and practices related to shared civic and community space. This history is illuminated through the activation of archival documents, video footage, and oral history interviews with individuals who have been involved in the historical development and issues of access intertwined with Los Angeles highways.

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