MEMORIES OF A MOVEMENT
UC Berkeley holds digital archives of '60s student protest
by Charles Burress, Chronicle Staff Writer
Berkeley - The remains of the fabled Free Speech Movement ironically have
come to their final resting place in the vaults of the movement's enemy,
the University of California at Berkeley.
The university was, according to the FSM, an extension of the capitalist
machine devouring our freedoms, but it turns out that UC Berkeley, or at
least its Bancroft Library, has become one of the greatest allies that the
movement ever had.
Until now, records of the 1964 Free Speech Movement have been kept
carefully guarded in the vast history archives of the somewhat forbidding
Bancroft, where visitors are subjected to registration and restrictions on
what they can bring in.
But today the library is officially announcing a new Internet portal to the
collection called the Free Speech Movement Digital Archives. Now anyone
with Internet access can easily see the original flyers and manifestos as
well as photographs and subsequent histories about the explosive
free-speech revolt that seized UC Berkeley for five months, inspired a
generation of protests around the world and, some scholars say, changed the
course of history.
The online documents total about 35,000 pages, which is roughly equal to a
full 32-volume set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. All of the text has been
digitized (entered via keyboard by workers in India, rather than scanned)
and thus can be searched for specific names and topics.
The project's completion is being accompanied by a major symposium tonight
and tomorrow on the campus called "Taking Part: FSM and the Legacy of
It features several panels by FSM leaders and prominent scholars on the
movement's social-protest legacy and on the anti-war and civil rights
movements that formed the cultural context.
The Bancroft's Free Speech Movement Web site, http://library.berkeley.
edu/BANC/FSM/, has a "text Documents" link to the searchable archive and a
link to the symposium giving the time, location and details of each panel.
Information by phone is available at (510) 642-3782.
The Web site has been up for some time as final additions and fixes were
being made, and it quickly became very popular as word spread around
campus, said Elizabeth Stephens, project archivist for the FSM collection.
At last count, it was receiving more hits than any of the Bancroft's
better-known collections, including the Mark Twain project or the historic
photos in the California Digital Library.
A large part of the interest has come from students wondering why their
professors and parents keep talking about the Free Speech Movement.
"Who was Agnew?" one undergraduate asked Bancroft employee Bill Brown as he
was installing a "No Nixon-Agnew War" poster for a library exhibit on the
social protests tied to the FSM. Spiro Agnew was vice president under
President Richard Nixon during the latter part of the Vietnam War.
The Free Speech Movement began in September 1964 when the campus revoked
permission for tables and advocacy for off-campus political movements,
which had been centered at the campus' south gate at Bancroft and Telegraph
Former student Jack Weinberg was arrested for defying the ban by setting up
a table for civil rights, and when he was placed into a squad car on Sproul
Plaza, the car was surrounded for two days by thousands of students.
(Weinberg, who coined the phrase 'Don't trust anyone over 30," is one of
the panelists at this weekend's symposium.)
Prolonged protests, including a takeover of Sproul Hall, engulfed the
campus and state government, leading eventually to the university backing
down and the image of resolute student protest branded into the public
"This was the beginning of essentially a worldwide movement for greater
freedom and less authoritarianism," said Bancroft director Charles Faulhaber.
Although the Free Speech Movement is now largely extolled, it still has
detractors, with some faculty today still believing it was one of the worst
things to have happened to the university, Faulhaber acknowledged.
"The Free Speech Movement led directly to the election of Ronald Reagan
(for California governor)," Faulhaber said. Reagan campaigned against the
university in 1966, and his election led to a state-university antagonism
that UC is still recovering from, he said.
The digital archive was funded by Stephen Silberstein, a former UC library
employee who graduated from Berkeley just months before the FSM. Thanks to
the success of his company, the Emeryville-based Innovative Interfaces,
which develops automated systems for libraries, he donated $3.5 million to
the campus libraries in 1998.
Yesterday, he said he feels "just wonderful" to see the fruits of his gift
three years later. Because the FSM was so important to history, he said, he
provided more than half of the gift, $2 million, to establishing the Free
Speech Movement Cafe on campus and the Bancroft's Free Speech Movement
digital and oral-history archives. About 70 oral histories are scheduled to
be added to the digital archive next year.
The Bancroft says it could not have accomplished the project without the
assistance of FSM veterans, including Michael Rossman, Susan Druding and
Lynne Hollander, widow of the movement's spokesman, Mario Savio. The FSM
veterans maintain their own extensive Web site at www.fsm-a.org/.
E-mail Charles Burress at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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