Week 9: Zines – LCC Special Collection


After a short introduction to the definition of the word “zine” and its etymology, library staff Ruth and Monica explained us the difference between the mainstream zine collection and the special one we have in LCC library.

There are two main concepts which define special collections and which make them different from other collections held within a library.
On the one hand, “Special Collections are collections of documents connected with some subject, or with the original collector of the material, or gathered for some reason in a library which is otherwise general in character” (Feather, J. & Sturges, P., 1996). This means a special collection can simply be a collection of documents that fit together into a specific category, may it be a subject or a person.

On the other hand, “The central concept that defines a special collection or archive is that it is treated differently from the mainstream collections that suport teaching, learning & research held by the institution, in terms of access, perservation, cataloguing and curation” (in the UAL Library Services’ Collection Development Policy). In other words, a special collection is one that is treated differently from the others; it is restricted in access and dealt with in such way to better preserve it.


Within the LCC Zine Collection, I found it interesting how these “old-school” zines were sold everywhere and for such a cheap cost. Zines, nowadays, are almost-exclusively sold online and for x100 more than their original price, escaping from their original intention of making art & culture available for everyone and easy to access.

Something else I found interesting – although really unfortunate – was how zines lost their power as means of resistance. In the 1970’s, when the first punk zines were published, “the voice of the maker came upon really strong; it was extremely powerful and direct with whatever they wanted to communicate through the publication”. While flicking through some of the older zines in the collection, I noticed they all had a sort of prologue, an explanation of the reason why that zine was created. They were used as manifestos, wake-up calls and turned people’s attention to social issues and unmentionable topics.

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In order to do this, some creators used imagery and even articles from other mainstream magazines. They wanted to criticize the media and their censored stories. By showing points of view and positions that the media chose to ignore, zine creators would raise awareness to the media control and to specific subjects ignored by the vast society. However, some questioned their morality for using appropriation/alteration of content.
Contemporary zine makers still use these methods, particularly when creating satirical approaches, but they do change the images or texts they take from others as to make them more than 50% their own and avoid copyright problems.

The difference between old zines and new zines seems very clear when it comes to layout, typography and reproduction. Back in the last century, they used to be hand-written or typed with a typing machine, photocopied and there weren’t many fonts to choose from. Currently, we see all kinds of zines. Most are very minimalistic and clean, they use a wide variety of fonts and typographic strategies and come in all sorts of shapes and types of paper.


Personally, I find the perspective of a zine as a cultural artefact the most interesting and worth analysing. Zines can be personal, political or cultural and understanding what is the message of that specific publication, what it means and in what context it can be viewed is the key to understanding what and how people thought in that time and place. We now understand how the Greek and Romans were because we found their sculptures. In the future, people we’ll understand us because of our zines.


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