The Margie Santos poster collection
A successful example of archival midwifery
Lincoln Cushing 6/15/2024

I first met Margie in the mid-1980s when I was working at Inkworks Press, soon after she had become the executive director of La Raza Graphics Center. She would regularly swing by our shop to pick up prints we'd set aside, and we quickly bonded over poster geekdom.

She was very serious and committed to the importance of this medium. In 1991 she came to my house for a family spaghetti dinner with comrade collector/archivists Michael Rossman and Carol Wells and wrote a thank-you note mentioning "I need to apologize for getting so engrossed in the short but intense discussion regarding the taxonomy of posters that I forgot my manners and did not really interact with others as much as I would have liked."

But a few years later she dropped off the radar, and I wondered what happened to her.

Fast forward to January 2019, when Claudia Zapata, curatorial assistant in Latino Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum was gathering prints for "¡Printing the Revolution! Chicano Graphics from the Civil Rights Era to the Present." She'd sent head curator Carmen Ramos to California to my house to pick prints (I donated five, including work by Juan Fuentes, Malaquias Montoya, and the La Raza Graphics Center.) In the course of our conversation she mentioned that another local donor, Rosa Terrazas, was looking for guidance on what to do with her niece's collection. I said sure, I'll help. I followed up on the contact, and learned "that niece" was Margie. Turns out Margie had succumbed to cancer in 2014, and her collection was sitting in the basement of an Oakland apartment building.

I went to appraise the collection May 26, 2019 and was astounded. 50 flat file drawers held an estimated 4,000 posters (which included many duplicates), mostly Chicano/Latino, mostly California, mostly Bay Area. I proceeded to review and shoot 1,000 representative examples. As I had done years before with Michael Rossman's AOUON archive, my next step was advising Rosa about options for donating the collection, and several institutions weighed in with their best offer of what they'd do with the material. The Oakland Museum of California won her trust. Margie's base was in that same neighborhood and the family had been involved in their Dia de los Muertos events from the beginning.

The collection was trucked over to OMCA and the processing began. I was hired last year to catalog these gems, a task that is still underway.

Margie truly understood the importance of community and social justice poster art. Among the posters were several giant sheets from a brainstorming session about plans for a poster center to support research and increase visibility for these treasures.

Two current exhibitions at OMCA, "Por el Pueblo: The Legacy and Influence of Malaquías Montoya" and "Calli: The Art of Xicanx Peoples" are just the beginning of this phase of Margie's legacy.

Thank you, Margie, for what you did. Rest in power.

Margie quote at Calli
Margie letter 8/12/1991
Santos collection in Oakland basement
Santos folders arrive at OMCA
Lincoln and Rosa Terrazas at Calli opening

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