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May 1968 was a period of political upheaval in Paris. Student demonstrations led to worker sit-in strikes and to the widespread general strike that paralyzed the country and threatened the French political regime. This worker/student rebellion shut down most of France and eventually ended General DeGaulle’s political career. The demand was for the reorganization of French social and political life. Barricades went up; street fighting broke out; and the Sorbonne was occupied by students and converted into a huge commune.
During this time of political and social upheaval, the École des Beaux Arts was occupied by students who formed the Atelier Populaire: workshops where the posters were first conceived, then produced using silk-screening processes, lithography and stenciling. The Atelier Populaire considered the posters they produced as weapons both in the service of their struggle and the workers’ protest against the “Establishment.” These posters later became collectors’ items.
Victoria University Library’s original collection of 19 posters was donated by Professor Emeritus Paul Bouissac, who was doing research in Paris in May 1968. In 2012, the Library acquired approximately 300 additional posters to commemorate Professor David Cook, who had completed his terms as Principal of Victoria College.
The Paris 1968 posters are original examples of simple yet powerful graphic street art which played a significant role in provoking political and social change. View the Paris Posters Collection online at: http://uoft.me/paris-posters/