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KU Libraries adds nearly 1,000 zines to radical lit collection

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


LAWRENCE — By their very nature, zines were almost meant to be enjoyed briefly, then fade away. The University of Kansas Libraries is now home to a substantial collection of fan-made, self-published magazines — better known simply as zines — that provide a window into politics, fandom, music, community, history and the idea of “do it yourself” communications both before and after the Internet became a dominant vehicle for communication and expression.

The Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements in KU’s Kenneth Spencer Research Library is the new home of a collection of nearly 1,000 zines on a wide range of topics. Frank Farmer, professor of English, arranged for the acquisition of the zine collection of Solidarity, a now-defunct political activist organization based in Lawrence. The Wilcox Collection is home to political publications and ephemera running the political gamut.

The former solidarity collection holds homemade publications on topics from “killing the fur industry” to the Occupy movement, World Trade Organization protests, socialism, anarchy and a wide range of often radical political ideas. But there are also a number dedicated to the arts, music, literature and culture. Some have relatively well-known names such as Maximum Rock and Roll or Fact Sheet Five, while others are decidedly less well-known, including Farmer’s personal favorite “13 Ways of Looking at Bill Murray.”

Farmer has studied and written about zines, their history, outsider writing and even worked with students to produce their own zines.

“They are somewhat ephemeral by nature,” Farmer said of zines. “And they are certainly a form of outsider writing. They often go unnoticed by mainstream culture. A lot of them are what you could call ‘publications of high weirdness.’”

Originating in the 1930s and often devoted to science fiction and fandom, the self-made publications continued to grow in numbers, prevalence and sometimes even popularity throughout the ensuing decades of the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

“Probably the watershed moment for zines as we know them was the emergence of punk rock,” Farmer said. “Most of them have their roots in certain musical genres, including jazz, rock and roll and punk. They became increasingly political over the years. As punk faded, a certain type of zine faded as well. But even though punk and zines both had their heydays, neither has completely disappeared.”

The arrival of the Internet in the ‘90s certainly changed things but did not kill zines. While blogs and online forms of communication are nearly ubiquitous now, there are still a number of zines being produced. However, those from the past — including zines that existed only for a single issue — were rarely archived the way online writing is. Housing them in the Wilcox Collection, where the hope is that they will all eventually be digitized, will help preserve them for future generations. Plus, zines simply weren’t built to last.

“Zines were usually printed on poor-quality paper with poor quality inks and not in quantity. Their production was a low-budget operation,” said Becky Schulte, university archivist and curator of the Wilcox Collection. “In order to preserve them so that they are available in the future, special care has to be taken with the zine as a physical object. They would not last long in a circulating library collection, so placing them in a special collection is optimal. We’re hoping to continue to add to the collection and to catch zines as they continue to evolve.”

Preservation is ideal as it gives scholars, students and anyone interested in history of underground movements or the topics the zines cover a window into writing of the past that could have easily disappeared. Plus, they are unique simply in the way they are produced. Zines have an ethos of DIY and resistance of consumerism, with a rag-tag aesthetic in which a creator's personality, politics and ideas all shine through. They were designed with a specific community in mind, and the knowledge that often the only people who would see them were fans of a certain band or individuals of a unique political persuasion was manifested in very personal publications. They were created from things others discarded or ignored.

While digitization and digital publication is prevalent now, Farmer said the Internet is not a villain or foil that spelled the end for zines. In fact, the form is still alive.

“They are alive and kicking,” Farmer said. “Right now there are very famous zine fests in places such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Kansas City, where a lot of people who are self publishing get together to discuss their work.”

The former Solidarity collection was started in the ‘80s, but has zines dating back to the ‘70s. A portion of the collection has been digitized and is available here. Whether one is a scholar, student or simply interested in local politics, history, culture, identity issues or how issues were argued in a “street level democracy,” what was often a brief-lived form of communication will live on.

“I’ve always been drawn to the DIY awareness among 'zinesters' that what you’re doing here is of your own making and that it’s outside of the accepted mainstream,” Farmer said. “Zines allow the rest of us to see discourse in a different way, and they remind us that there’s tremendous creativity among writers who do not often get much recognition, but who have the power to sustain alternate communities with their words.”

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Approaches to Teaching and Learning African American History
Thursday, January 18 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
The Commons, Spooner Hall, University of Kansas campus
This session will engage a variety of texts and academic disciplines and will benefit instructors teaching the 2017-18 KU Common Book, Citizen: An American Lyric. Please RSVP to firstyear@ku.edu.

Public Lecture: Representations of African American History in U.S. Politics and Popular Culture
Thursday, January 18 | 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.
Free and open to the public. Dr. Pero Dagbovie will speak on representations of African American history in U.S. politics and popular culture as part of the Langston Hughes Center Diverse Dialogues on Race and Culture series.

What's in a Frame?
Friday, January 19 | Noon-1 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Dolph Simons Family Gallery, 316
1301 Mississippi St.
Join resident frame specialist and exhibition technician Dan Coester to learn how frames both protect paintings and shape our experiences with works of art. This behind-the-frames discussion focuses on significant restoration work completed for paintings on view in Civic Leader and Art Collector: Sallie Casey Thayer and an Art Museum for KU and includes examples of the restoration process and frames awaiting treatment.

Art Cart: Painted Fans
Saturday, January 20 | 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Sam and Connie Perkins Central Court, 317
1301 Mississippi St.
The Art Cart is a drop-in activity station where children and grown-ups enjoy hands-on art projects together, taking inspiration from original works of art. After traveling the world, Sallie Casey Thayer donated her collection of objects to KU to form what is now the Spencer Museum of Art. Learn about Mrs. Thayer and create a painted folding fan to start your own collection.

Slow Art Sunday: Steel Wool Peignoir
Sunday, January 21 | 2 p.m.-3 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Kemper Family Foundations Balcony, 408
1301 Mississippi St.
Slow down at the Spencer and spend time getting to know one great work of art. Slow Art Sunday features one work for visitors to contemplate and converse about with Museum staff. In January, get to know Steel Wool Peignoir by Mimi Smith.

Science on Tap: The Cambrian: More than just Trilobites
Wednesday, January 24 | 7:30 p.m.
Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St.
The Cambrian is a time in Earth’s history when many modern animal relatives make their first appearance. It is also a time when many bizarre animals without modern relatives appear in the fossil record. At this Science on Tap, Dr. Julien Kimmig will talk about the diversity of animals during this amazing period and what it can teach us about the future of life on earth. 

Career Close-ups: Developing a Career in the Museum World
Friday, January 26 | 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Auditorium 309
1301 Mississippi St.
Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to explore how any major can lead to a career in a cultural organization. A panel of museum professionals will share their experiences, followed by a networking reception and behind-the-scenes tours of KU’s museums. This year’s panelists include: Dina Bennett (Mulvane Art Museum, Washburn University), Glenn North (Black Archives of Mid-America), and Adrianne Russell (Cabinet of Curiosities). Advance registration is required at www.spencerart.ku.edu/career-closeups. Please register by January 24. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/476618689399321/
Sponsored by the Spencer Museum of Art, KU Natural History Museum, University Career Center, and the Museum Studies Program.

Final Friday: Community and Culture Closing Celebration
Friday, January 26 | 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with the Max Kade Center and the Lawrence Opera Theatre, present an evening of 19th-century German-American music and cuisine.

Discovery Day: Celebrating Kansas
Sunday, January 28 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
In honor of Kansas Day, join us for hands-on activities that are all about Kansas wildlife, plants and fossils. 

Kenneth A. Spencer Lecture: An Evening with Eve L. Ewing: Poetry in Context
Wednesday, January 31 | 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.
Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist, poet, essayist, artist, and educator whose research focuses on racism, social inequality, urban policy, and the impact of these forces on American public schools and the lives of young people. Dr. Ewing earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is recognized as a leader and social influencer, especially in conversations involving academia, writing, black women, and the intersection of politics and popular culture. Sponsored by The Commons.

University in the Art Museum for Graduate Students
Thursday, February 1 | 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, 1301 Mississippi St.
University in the Art Museum introduces graduate students to opportunities for object-based teaching, learning, and research through collaborative partnerships with the Spencer Museum of Art. This workshop includes discussions led by graduate students in the departments of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Geography; and Atmospheric Science. Advance registration is required by Monday, January 29. Register online at https://spencerart.ku.edu/uam.

Extraordinary Animals: Awesome Adaptations
Sunday, February 4 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
At this new monthly animal event, parents and children are invited to learn about animals of Kansas. Museum Animal Specialist Ashley Welton will offer presentations about animal adaptations using touchable specimens from the museums collections at 1:15, 1:45 and 2:15 pm. 

FeBREWary at the Watkins
Thursday, February 15 | 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with Lawrence Beer Co., presents an evening of beer, food, and knowledge! Enjoy beer and a fascinating talk on brewing provided by Lawrence Beer Co., plus food from local restaurants and an informal museum tour. Tickets are $15 for DCHS members, $20 for non-members. You may sign up online or contact the museum at 785-841-4109. We recommend buying in advance. Ages 21 and over only, please. More information and registration.

Winter Table: An Evening of Herpetology
Wednesday, February 28 | 6:30 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
A celebration of more than 100 years of KU herpetology research programs and the careers of Linda Trueb and Bill Duellman. Explore the Natural History Museum's reptile and amphibian collections and enjoy appetizers and drinks. Dine in the Panorama Gallery with KU herpetology scientists and students conducting reptile and amphibian research across the globe. 

6:30 pm: appetizers, drinks and science salon
7:00 pm: dinner and program
$50 per person 

Reserve your space now at the 2018 Winter Table by ordering tickets online. Tickets are $50 per person. You may also call 785-864-4450 to purchase by phone or you may purchase tickets at the museum lobby during business hours. Questions? Contact biodiversity@ku.edu or 785-864-4450.

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