“The People’s Archive” instructional notes

Below are the notes I sent to the Weaving the Streets & People’s Archives team members today, focusing on the People’s Archive component of the project.

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

“The archivist, even more than the historian and the political scientist, tends to be scrupulous about his neutrality, and to see his job as a technical job, free from the nasty world of political interest: a job of collecting, sorting, preserving, making available, the records of the society.  But I will stick by what I have said about other scholars, and argue that the archivist, in subtle ways, tends to perpetuate the political and economic status quo simply by going about his ordinary business.  His supposed neutrality is, in other words, a fake.  If so, the rebellion of the archivist against his normal role is not, as so many scholars fear, the politicizing of a neutral craft, but the humanizing of an inevitably political craft.  Scholarship in society is inescapably political.  Our choice is not between being political or not.  Our choice is to follow the politics of the going order, that is, to do our job within the priorities and directions set by the dominant forces of society, or else to promote those human values of peace, equality, and justice, which our present society denies.”

- Howard Zinn, “Secrecy, Archives, and the Public Interest”

Let me begin with something John Collins has used to describe the Weave blog, which is the act of weaving together “texts” and “contexts.”  In Latin, the word textus means “1. construct with elaborate care; 2. plait (together); and 3. weave.”  Likewise, in Latin, contextus means “1. compose, connect, link, combine; 2. make, join, form; and 3. weave, entwine, braid, twist together.”

In literary theory and cultural studies, “texts” are any sort of phenomena that signify meaning, such as written publications, visual works of art, music, videos, oral interviews, etc. as well as clothing styles, architectural design, community-based murals, solidarity gatherings, etc.  Coming from a printmaking perspective, I myself tend to focus on hand-held physical texts or “artifacts,” such as street art stickers, political posters, flyers, leaflets, and photographs of these items (though in some cases, these physical artifacts are ephemeral by design).

Texts tell stories.  It’s up to you to figure out what those stories are.  One of the goals of WSPA is to identify the texts that you think are important and tell the stories surrounding those texts.  That’s the Weaving the Streets blogging component of our project, the contextualization.

The People’s Archive will also document the creative ways ordinary people make use of public space to express themselves.  The archive is intended to be a varied repository of selected texts that we gather to share with others.  It will consist of physical artifacts, as I described above, that will be scanned, catalogued, and added to the gallery’s Street Art Graphics digital archive (http://www.stlawu.edu/gallery/digitalcollections/streetartgraphics.php).  Take a look at some of the entries to get a sense of the cataloguing that’s been done.  It’s a work-in-progress, so some items are more thoroughly catalogued than others.  Non-physical artifacts, such as “born digital” documentary photographs, video or sound-based interviews, etc., will also be catalogued as texts and will reside on the WSPA group blog (http://weavenews.org/content/weaving-streets).  In some cases, physical artifacts will appear in both the Street Art Graphics digital archive and the WSPA group blog.

For each physical artifact or born digital item, you will be asked to identify:

  • the creator (artist, organization, sponsor, contributor, or unknown)
  • the geographic location where you found it (be as specific as possible).  For those of you with smart phones, you can even write down GPS coordinates for future reference.
  • a 150-200 word description (what it is about, why it was made, and who the intended audience might be).  Description fields are the most difficult but also the most fun.  You’ll do research to unlock the mysteries surrounding your artifacts or born digital items.  For examples in the Street Art Graphics digital archive, check out the description fields in the German “St. Pauli” stickers and the American “night raiders.”

Cataloguing information is known as “metadata,” or data about data.  Each artifact or born digital item will be catalogued using the fields listed above.  In addition, subject fields for each item will be populated by a university librarian.  Subject fields are tricky and need to follow certain guidelines determined by the Library of Congress and others.  That way, our work will fit into the larger body of knowledge for use by diverse audiences.

Alums can mail physical artifacts to me at the gallery, and students in the field can do the same or bring them back to campus next fall.  The gallery will scan each item and use your metadata to add to the digital archive and/or group blog.  John and I will leave it up to you to decide how many artifacts or born digital items you’d like to incorporate into your research, but we’re imagining somewhere between four to six.  This work is known as digital curation, which is like selecting artworks for an exhibition, for example.  Each of you will be curating your own show, so to speak.  You’ll want to choose your four to six items carefully so that they tell the story you want to share with others.  That is your role as an archivist/activist.

I write about street art stickers on my research blog called Stickerkitty, and for your reference I have listed four links below to posts that weave together texts and contexts.  You’ll see how I often come across some unknown thing I find on the streets and then work to uncover the story behind it.

http://stickerkitty.com/2013/01/26/white-power-and-good-night-white-pride-stickers/

http://stickerkitty.com/2012/04/28/thor-steinar-storefront-in-friedrichsain-and-other-protests/

http://stickerkitty.com/2013/05/20/barbies-not-so-dream-house/

http://stickerkitty.com/2013/05/18/mapping-right-wing-stickers/

A few other references to archivism and activism are listed below.

Lile, Grace.  “Archives for Change: Activist Archives, Archival Activism.”  http://blog.witness.org/2010/09/archives-for-change-activist-archives-archival-activism/.

“Occupy Wall Street from the Streets to the Archives” (New York Times, May 2, 2012).  http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/02/occupy-wall-street-from-the-streets-to-the-archives/.

See also Ben McCorkle’s “Annotated Obama Poster” for his analysis of the visual rhetoric behind the Obama HOPE poster at http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/mccorkle12/work2.html.

“Forward to Recovery” sticker

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I recently found a great pro-labor political sticker about capitalism and the economy that looks very much like an I.W.W. stickerette due to its size, medium, and message.  It states “Forward to Recovery – Increased Activity – Price Rise – Employment.”  We see “Business” dressed as a fat cat in a fancy suit and pinstripe pants racing forward while being dragged down by the heavy anchor of “Low Wages.”  The artist’s name is difficult to decipher; the signature looks like “Terry Costello,” but I can’t find anything similar online or in any of my I.W.W.-related books and articles.  The reason I think the sticker comes from the I.W.W., however, is because it’s glued onto an envelope dated September 30, 1933.

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The envelope was addressed to Kenneth N. Rinker, 417 W. First St., Greensburg, Indiana, and it cost three cents at the time to send through the mail.  There is no return address on the front or back of the envelope.  The envelope was sealed when I acquired it.  I opened it only to find a blank sheet of white paper….

I thought I might find mention of the “Costello” artist in Franklin Rosement’s “A Short Treatise on Wobbly Cartoons” in the newer 1988 edition of Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology by Joyce L. Kornbluh.  I also checked “Wobbly” – 80 Years of Rebel Art, a catalogue that accompanied an exhibition at the Labor Archives and Research Center in San Francisco in 1987.  No luck.  I learned about many other I.W.W. artists, though, and discovered a few other sources to check later, including “The Iconographics of American Labor,” a chapter in From the Knights of Labor to the New World Order: Essays on Labor and Culture by Paul Buhle, and Images of American Radicalism by Paul Buhle and Edmund Sullivan.  (As a side note, in the late 1960s Paul Buhle founded the S.D.S. journal Radical America, which features a story about the I.W.W. in Volume 1, Number 2, and even mentions stickerettes!  I have a theory that S.D.S. stickers were inspired by stickerettes, which I plan to write about in the near future….  I need to connect the dots, and Franklin Rosemont and Paul Buhle are two key figures with interests in both the I.W.W. and S.D.S.)

Anyway, back to the mysterious envelope.  The little NRA sticker on the lower right states “NRA Member – U.S. – We Do Our Part” and shows a blue eagle clutching a gear, symbolizing industry, and lightning, symbolizing power.  You can read more about the NRA blue eagle logo here.

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I have other NRA stickers in the Street Art Graphics digital archive, but they aren’t from the National Rifle Association.  The early NRA stickers, which Arline Wolfe catalogued last year, were, as she wrote, “from the National Recovery Administration, a U.S. government agency established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to stimulate business recovery through fair-practice codes during the Great Depression.  The NRA was an essential element in the National Industrial Recovery Act (June 1933), which authorized the President to institute industry-wide codes intended to eliminate unfair trade practices, reduce unemployment, establish minimum wages and maximum hours, and guarantee the right of labour to bargain collectively, according to www.britannica.com.”  The Social Welfare History Project Web site also describes the NRA here.

Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid stickers

Two stickers in my collection focus on Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid in South Africa.  The first states “Stop Apartheid, Boycott Shell – Owen Bieber, UAW President and National CAP Chairman,” and the date 1985 is penciled on the back.

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Owen Bieber was then President of the American United Auto Workers Union and a strong Mandela supporter.  In 1984, Bieber was even arrested in an anti-apartheid demonstration in DC.  An article entitled “Campaign to Boycott Shell” in the United States Anti-Apartheid Newsletter (Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 1986) describes Bieber’s role in the campaign and the call for “Shell and other companies doing business in South Africa to stop ‘buttressing’ apartheid.  The major objective of the campaign is to educate the American people on the role of multi-national corporations in a country which has statutes allowing them to seize oil and computer companies on the basis of security and war needs.”  (Sound familiar?)  After Mandela was released from prison, he traveled in 1990 to the United States and during one stop met with UAW members at a rally in Dearborn, Michigan, with Bieber at his side.

The second sticker, “Nelson Mandela Must Be Set Free!!!,” was produced in 1988 by The Pyramid Complex, PO Box 21212, Washington, D.C., with a phone number listed as (202) 332-3908.  At the time, the anti-apartheid leader Mandela would have been in jail for 26 years after having been arrested in 1962 and charged with treason for attempting to overthrow the South African government.

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The International Institute of Social History has another sticker from The Pyramid Complex that states “Free South Africa Now!” with the same address and phone number, though dated 1989.  It’s housed at the Nederlands Instituut voor Zuidelijk Afrika in Amsterdam.  The catalogue record for it is here, and a low-res screen shot of the sticker is below.

Free South Africa Now

The IISH put together a Web dossier memorial tribute called Nelson Mandela and the Netherlands, where you can find several stickers.  In addition, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (where Mandela studied law) has an online collection called KAIROS, Dutch anti-apartheid organization 1970s-1990s, which includes stickers from The Pyramid Complex.  There are no pictures, but the collection is described as:

  • Details: Stickers.  Stickers with various slogans in English and Dutch: ANC, Anti Apartheid, Anti Shell, Trade Union slogans, Solidarity with SWAPO.  The sources and dates are not known, except for a few of the stickers [that] have The Pyramid Complex, Washington DC, 1989 printed on them.

The only other reference I can find for The Pyramid Complex is a book they published by W. Bruce Willis called The Adinkra Dictionary: A Visual Primer on the Language of Adinkra (1998).

The IISH mentioned above is an online database/archive that actually includes stickers.  In fact, when I do a search for stickers in their catalogue, I get over 4,200 results!  Based on my initial review, the stickers come from Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Namibia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  Some date back to the 1920s and ‘30s, but most appear to be from the 1970s to 1990s.  There is even a handful of I.W.W. stickerettes!

Weaving the Streets & People’s Archive – December 2013

Our first Weaving the Streets & People’s Archive press release.

Introduction

Weaving the Streets & People’s Archive (WSPA) is a multi-faceted, interdisciplinary collaborative project that offers St. Lawrence University students, alumni, and others the opportunity to be part of a dynamic, global, investigative blog and a digital archive that document the creative range of ways in which ordinary people make use of public space to express themselves.  The goal is to bring together examples from a wide range of cultures and experiences so that people can build bridges, explore lines of solidarity and difference, and learn from the experiences of others.  The WSPA project draws on two existing initiatives with the goal of pushing each one forward while “weaving” them together in ways that will deepen their educational impact at St. Lawrence and increase their impact beyond the campus:

  • Street Art Graphics is a digital image archive project initiated in 2004 by Catherine Tedford, director of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery.  The archive is available through the gallery’s Web site and features nearly 2,000 examples of street art stickers and street art graphics from Canada, England, Germany, Russia, Spain, and the United States.  Items are scanned and catalogued on an item-by-item basis for in-depth online access and research.
  • The Weave, headquartered in the Global Studies Department, is an independent news media project created in 2006 with the primary mission of spotlighting stories that are not receiving sufficient public attention. The project is directed by Professor and Chair of Global Studies Dr. John Collins and Jana Morgan ’07, National Director for Publish What You Pay (USA).  The Weave features investigative blogs as well as a video archive of short, provocative responses from artists, scholars, activists, and journalists to a series of “Big Questions” (e.g., “What is today’s most underreported story?”).  The Weaving the Streets blog can be found on the Weave at http://www.weavenews.org/content/weaving-streets.

Funded by a two-year Humanities Grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, WSPA will be implemented each semester by two to four students and/or young alumni in “cohorts” starting in the fall of 2013.  We are pleased to announce that four recent alumni have been selected for cohort #1, including Derek King ’12, Steve Peraza ’06, and Jordan Pescrillo ’12, all currently living and working in Buffalo, New York, and Łukasz Niparko ’13, from Poznan, Poland.  Two students who will be participating in off-campus study programs in the spring of 2014 have been selected for cohort #2.  Carolyn Dellinger ’16 will be working in London, England, and Sheila Murray ’15 will be working in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Cohort #1

Three St. Lawrence University alumni have begun collaborating on The Buffalo Exchange, a field research and blogging project that exemplifies the philosophy behind Weaving the Streets & People’s ArchiveThe Buffalo Exchange will help contextualize the visual and aural materials the alumni are collecting as part of their fieldwork.  A selection of these materials will be digitized, catalogued, geospatially tagged, and included in the Street Art Graphics digital archive, along with a condensed version of the contextual information provided in the blogs.

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(image credit: Mike Puma from Views of Buffalo)

Steve Peraza ‘06, a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Buffalo, is a veteran Weave contributor who has been blogging at The Poverty Report since 2008.  For The Buffalo Exchange, he will focus on the creation of community gardens on previously abandoned land in Buffalo.  As he documents these projects photographically, he will provide investigative blog content that examines contextual issues such as community empowerment, gentrification, and urban agriculture.

Derek King ‘12, an architectural historian with Preservation Studios (a Buffalo-based consulting firm specializing in historical preservation), will bring a keen eye for architectural detail and urban planning to The Buffalo Exchange.  His work will focus on the relationship between the city of Buffalo’s large-scale urban development initiatives and the many small-scale, grassroots efforts to revitalize communities that have been shaped by poverty and deindustrialization.  As a citizen journalist, he will seek out voices, examples, and lessons that may be otherwise left out of mainstream news and official political narratives.  Derek hopes to show that it is not big development projects that are “saving” or even defining this city’s revival, but the people there who live, play, and create who are driving Buffalo’s resurgence.

Jordan Pescrillo ‘12, who is based in the education sector through her work with ABLE (AmeriCorps Builds Lives through Education) and the International Institute in Buffalo, brings to The Buffalo Exchange a strong background in working with refugees from Nepal and elsewhere.  Her contributions to the project will focus on creating alternative and more accessible means through which members of refugee communities in Buffalo, particularly young people, can articulate their own perspectives on local issues and “speak back to the headlines.”  Her investigative blogging will provide detailed context surrounding the photographic and spoken-word materials that form the core of her fieldwork.

JordanPescrillo

In addition, Łukasz Niparko ’13, based out of Poznań, Poland, will examine aspects of housing and urban development through the lens of Rozbrat, one of the oldest occupied squats in the country, and Od:zysk [From: profit], a newer squat located near the historic market center in Poznań.  Łukasz will explore the squats’ initiatives for social change through street art, workshops, and other activities in response to the privatization and commercialization of urban spaces.  Lukasz also writes on the Weave for SOLIDARITY Avenue.

Aleje Solidarnosci

Cohort #2

Carolyn Dellinger ’16 began working on the Street Art Graphics digital archive in the fall of 2013, focusing on a rare collection of street art stickers dating from the late 1980s for the Antifa Jugendfront (Antifascist Youth Front) in Berlin, Germany.  She was trained in Photoshop to create master image files for each sticker and has also begun creating metadata for Description fields.  In the spring of 2014, Carolyn will study the wide range of innovative street art murals in London by such artists as Bansky and Space Invader to see how they relate to and comment upon socio-political issues facing England, such as racial tensions and unemployment.

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Sheila Murray ’15 chose to study in Costa Rica for the opportunity to pursue her interests in global studies, Spanish language, and environmental justice.  Her experience working with the local GardenShare non-profit organization and as a blogger for the Ecological Sustainability Landscape’s Summer at the Garden will be put to good use in the context of WSPA.  While abroad, Sheila will examine some of Costa Rica’s bold environmental actions, such as being the first climate neutral country in the world, from the ground up!

Stickerkitty Can Haz Metadata

I am learning how to use ContentDM (CDM), the digital image management software that the SLU gallery uses to catalogue its internal permanent collection database and other published collections.  It’s a program that’s geared more toward library special collections and historical societies, and so it’s not that great in terms of presenting large works of art on a monitor or wall screen.  (By contrast, the gallery’s Canadian Inuit art collection is presented in Drupal; the images appear almost full screen and are much clearer.)  What’s cool about learning CDM, however, is that I can now add misc. stickers here and there to the Street Art Graphics digital archive without having to ask Arline Wolfe, the arts metadata technician, for help and whose plate is full enough as it is!

Last week, I added four stickers by City Kitty, and this week I added 26 new St. Pauli stickers.  Believe it or not, there are now 132 different St. Pauli stickers in my collection.  That is one creative club!  Many St. Pauli stickers employ adbusting and culture jamming techniques, or what Guy Debord, a French Situationist, called détournement.  Some of these are illustrated in my previous posts, St. Pauli football club stickers and FC St. Pauli stickers #2.  Here are a few other examples below.

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In Hamburg isst Braun-Weiss (Hamburg is brown [and] white), Cookie Monster, a character from the American television show The Muppets, is eating a chocolate chip cookie.  The black and white crest on his blue shirt is for St. Pauli’s rival, the Hamburger Sport-Verein (HSV) football club, and so this sticker is poking fun at St. Pauli.

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The following American TV and movie characters are represented in the St. Pauli stickers: Beavis & Butthead, Cookie Monster, Daffy Duck, the Gorillaz, Hello Kitty, Popeye, Homer Simpson, and “Taz,” the Tasmanian Devil in Looney Tunes cartoons.  The poster from the movie Jaws in the sticker below is another example of adbusting and culture jamming, and in this case the St. Pauli shark is going after the ship that is the crest for the FC Hansa Rostock.

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Plus, who is is this guy?  #notmygeneration…. hehe.

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FC St. Pauli stickers #2

I did a little more research and polished my previous blog post on St. Pauli stickers for two reasons: 1.) I needed a shorter, condensed version without links to use in the Street Art Graphics digital archive, and 2.) I will use this version in the traveling exhibition, Re-Writing the Streets: The International Language of Stickers.  I can also use this exercise to show students the differences and similarities among a blog post, metadata for a digital archive, and an exhibition text panel.

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Hamburg, the German port city home to the St. Pauli football club (Fußball St. Pauli or FC St. Pauli), hosts a sports team well known for its outspoken anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic politics and its staunchly progressive social activism.  Founded in 1910, the club is located in the working-class district along the docks near the Reeperbahn red-light district, and for the past thirty years has maintained a certain cult following across Europe, initially attracting radicals, squatters, dockers, and prostitutes in the 1980s, and later, anarchists, punks, bikers, anti-fascists, and other politicized groups.  Known as the “pirates of the league,” the club has adopted a number of shipyard-related visual icons, including the Jolly Roger flag’s skull and crossbones, which is the unofficial crest and seen everywhere, as well as anchors, galleons, and sword brandishing buccaneers.  St. Pauli was the first team in Germany to ban right-wing activities and displays at its stadium, in response to hooligan fascists and neo-Nazis in the 1980s and ‘90s that were infiltrating matches across the country, fighting rival teams and police, and causing a great deal of violence and damage.  The sticker “St. Pauli-fans gegen Rechts!” or “St. Pauli fans against the Right!” has been widely produced and distributed and is said to have sold over two million copies.  Variants of “St. Pauli is brown [and] white,” the team’s home and away colors, are also common.  Many St. Pauli stickers portray the revolutionary guerrilla leader, Ernesto “Che” Guevara.  Others incorporate ad-busting techniques and similar forms of culture jamming, as seen in the appropriation of popular television and cartoon characters such as Homer Simpson, Hello Kitty, and Beavis and Butthead.

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One of St. Pauli’s closest rival teams, the wealthier Hamburger Sport-Verein (HSV or H$V), utilizes a blue, white, and black diamond crest that is often mocked in St. Pauli stickers.

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St. Pauli football club stickers

Hamburg, the German port city that is home to the St. Pauli Football Club, hosts a sports team well known for its outspoken anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic politics and its staunchly progressive activism.  Founded in 1910, the Club is located in the working-class district along the docks near the Reeperbahn red-light district.  For the past 30 years, the team has maintained a certain cult following across Europe, initially attracting radicals, squatters, dockers, and prostitutes in the 1980s, and later, anarchists, punks, bikers, anti-fascists, and other politicized groups.  You can read more at When Punk and Football Collide, Punks, prostitutes and St. Pauli: Inside soccer’s coolest club, and Hamburg, Germany: Football fans say ‘Love St Pauli, Hate Racism’.

Known as the “pirates of the league,” the St. Pauli Club has adopted a number of shipyard-related visual icons, including the Jolly Roger flag’s skull and crossbones, which is the team’s logo and seen everywhere, as well as anchors, galleons, and sword brandishing buccaneers.

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St. Pauli was the first team in Germany to ban right-wing activities and displays at their stadium, in response to hooligan fascists and neo-Nazis in the 1980s and ‘90s that were infiltrating matches across the country, fighting rival teams and police, and causing a great deal of violence and damage.  The sticker “St. Pauli-fans gegen Rechts!” or “St. Pauli fans against right extremism!” has been widely produced and distributed and by now is said to have sold over two million copies.  There is even a Facebook page for Sankt Pauli Fans gegen Rechts.

Tedford-St Pauli

Ultras named on stickers refer to extreme football fan clubs and can lean both left and right.  Several St. Pauli fan clubs have been formed in the last 20 years, including the Sankt Pauli Skinheads in 1996 and the St. Pauli Ultras in 2002.  In these cases, skinheads, punks, and other alternative sub-groups are self-defined anti-fascists.  You can get a good sense of the raucous nature of a St. Pauli game at The accidental ultra – St Pauli away (“away” meaning “visitor” to the Brit author).

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The revolutionary guerrilla leader Che Guevera is represented on many St. Pauli stickers, as are other iconic figures, including the American actor John Goodman with a handgun from the movie The Big Lebowski and Yoda the Jedi Master from Star Wars.

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Other football related stickers in this series include A.C.A.B. (or 1312), which stands for “all cops are bastards.”

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Arline Wolfe at SLU recently catalogued over 100 St. Pauli stickers and added them to the Street Art Graphics digital archive (click on “sports”), or you can view the uncatalogued stickers on my Flickr site here.

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