The Alternative Press Collection at the University of Connecticut was founded in the late 1960s out of student participation in activist movements for social, cultural, and political change. Richard Akeroyd, a student assistant at the University of Connecticut Libraries, who later became curator of the collection and eventually the Connecticut State Librarian, built the collection along with then-director for Special Collections Richard Schimmelpfeng. The two collected fliers, handouts, and locally produced tabloids during the heyday of student demonstrations at the University of Connecticut and other New England campuses. In 1967, during the annual American Library Association conference in San Francisco, Schimmelpfeng collected posters and other materials scattered around the activist Haight-Ashbury district, adding to the geographic diversity of the collection. The library from the Radical Education Project of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was added to the collection in 1972.
Today the collection extends beyond its humble origins to include thousands of national and international newspapers, serials, books, pamphlets, ephemera, and artifacts documenting activist themes and organizations, spanning the 1800s to the present. The bulk of the collection pertains to the Vietnam era. The collection contains more than 7,000 newspaper and magazine titles, 5,000 books and pamphlets, 1,800 files of ephemera from activist organizations throughout the country, plus miscellaneous posters, broadsides, buttons, calendars, and manuscripts. Alternative tabloids from the 1960s and early 1970s include Georgia Straight, the Berkeley Barb, and Great Speckled Bird. Contemporary peace movements regarding the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as materials pertaining to contemporary unrest in the Middle East, Central America, and Africa are also included.
An additional strength of the collection are liberation and civil rights movements, including a significant number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender materials and queer liberation publications. The collection also documents early feminist publications such as Off Our Backs, and contains materials pertaining to non-white racial and ethnic identities and power movements, including the Oakland-based Black Panther newspaper as well as fliers and ephemeral materials from demonstrations during the trial of Black Panther Bobby Seale. Asian, Latino, Native American, and interracial publications are all represented, as well as materials from organizations campaigning for the rights of children, the elderly, and people with physical and mental challenges.
The collection also includes a wide array of radical political materials, including approximately 3,000 books and pamphlets on socialism and communism, as well as anarchist materials and publications from the radical right.
Additionally, the Alternative Press Collection includes notable manuscript collections, including the Hoffman Family Papers, donated in 2000 by Jack Hoffman, the younger brother of activist Abbie Hoffman, the co-founder of the Yippie movement and co-defendant in the Chicago Seven Trial. Other manuscript materials include the Meyer Collection of Fat Liberation, the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union Records, and the Connecticut Citizens Action Group Records.
Collection Profile: Valerie Love
Overview: Thomas Wilsted
Illustrations: Alex Bothell