The Palestine Poster Project Archive

The Palestine Poster Project Archives started in the mid 1970s. The founder Dan Walsh, began his poster collection during his time in Morocco with the Peace Corps. Founded as a result of his thesis, by 1980 the archive accumulated 300 posters about Palestine. With a grant by the late Edward Said in 1980, the project expanded steadily over the years, currently standing at 14000 posters sourced from varied locations. The poster archive functioned as part of a curriculum for American high school student. This is important given the fact that Palestinian existence and history and the formation of the Palestinian-Zionist conflict is often erased within American institutional bodies.

For the purpose of this archive, Dan Walsh set a clear definition of what a Palestine poster is: Any poster with the word “Palestine” in it, any poster created or published by any artist or agency claiming Palestinian nationality or Palestinian participation, any poster published in the geographical territory of historic Palestine, any poster published by any source which relates directly to the history of Palestine or any poster related to Zionism or anti-Zionism in any language published after August 31, 1897 (after the first Zionist congress)

The archive has two intended audiences. Firstly Walsh sought to create the posters as a tool for curriculum enhancement in teaching Palestine to high school students. Secondly, his archive could be used by educators, activists, scholars, and any other interested party that wants to integrate Palestine posters to its activities. The PPAA offers a unique perspective on the history of modern Palestine and its cultural heritage. According to the creator, the posters provide a unique lens through which audiences can gain insight into the attitudes and aspirations of people directly involved in the contemporary history of Palestine, as they have experienced it and recorded it in graphic art.”

Making the site in which the archive is hosted accessible, Walsh’s technical and design choices divided the posters into four categories.

1) Arab and Muslim artists and agencies

2) International artists and agencies

3) Palestinian nationalist artists and agencies

4) Zionist and Israeli artists and agencies

These categories are meant to provide clarity as to where the posters originate and who are their creators. This in turn makes audiences aware of the origin of their sources, specifically if they were created by Palestinian nationalists and their allies or by zionists. This itself would be helpful to do research on both parties The creator also stresses the importance of having all the posters presented in one site together (Palestinian created and zionist created ones).

Organizing all posters from all different four sources into one place “obviates the gratuitous complexities” when posters related to Palestine are all randomly categorized by archivist under varied terms, which makes access harder for people seeking research material on Palestine. I found this aspect to the archive to be very appealing and useful it allows students and researchers to look at materials coming from the four different categories of sources alltogether. It is not clear whether Dan Walsh has uploaded all the archive to his website but that was his initial goal. The majority of the initial posters were printed on paper, however digitally produced and distributed posters have seen a rise in numbers and he has included certain requirements to those electronic posters.

The archive is also tagged by artist names and nationality, as well as country and year of publication. I think this categorization allows for researchers to investigate and study some aspects of transnational solidarity with Palestine that are only accessible through materials like posters and event flyer

The PPAA website also includes a very extensive Frequently Asked Questions page that addresses questions such as copyright issues, duplicate posters, fair use, the Palestinian-Zionist conflict and long-term plans. I think this is a very strong aspect to the project and it speaks directly to its audience and addresses any potential questions users might have.

This project is unique, as it has grown to be an extensive archive of historical materials that preserve the memory of Palestine: its history, culture, society, and politics. Importantly the accessibility of this website and its nature as an open source archive, means that many people can contribute to making the amount of posters that it holds more robust. To this end future project could  learn from how collaborative of an archive it is. Through making it so accessible, it is both able to have a wide reach as a tool for preservation and teaching while also gaining many submissions from various groups around the world.