A shining portion of feminist (recent) history is kept where you’d least expect it — in the back corner of the fourth floor of Kennedy Library, under lock and key, and separated into well kept, archival folders. Special Collections and Archives is known for their San Luis Obispo historical documents, Cal Poly archives, and Julia Morgan collections. This is fitting, given the location; however, there are countless other amazing collections/books/documents/art pieces housed in their walls. However, one might have difficulty finding these collections unless pointed in the right direction. One of these amazing collections is the Women’s Zine Collection.
Since it’s Women’s History Month, and the Archives’ internal excitement surrounding strong woman/architect Julia Morgan has been somewhat temporarily exhausted after completing a giant digitizing project (all correspondence between Hearst and Morgan will be available online very soon, so keep an eye out), I thought it would be a good idea to give a new collection some exposure. The Women’s Zine Collection was donated to Special Collections and Archives in whole, so the entire collection of over 160 works is a cohesive body of zines.
Wait, wait, you aren’t familiar with the term zine? I thought that might happen. To introduce you to the concept, the very first zine in the collection, a very special edition of Girly Show, gives a nice breakdown of what a zine is:
“A zine is a self-published, usually low budget manuscript that freely blends original and found material in a compelling and provoking manner… Their content tends to embrace topics that corporate publishing houses and other mainstream media would not consider profitable or prudent to publish… Importantly, zines have been embraced by the marginalized as personalized vehicles of resistance and an effective means of grassroots activism.”
This edition of Girly Show was a program for the exhibit created by Denise Johnson that became the Woman’s Zine Collection after donation. The exhibit shown at the Wignall Museum at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga in October/November of 2007. If you’re looking to get an easy overview on the collection as a whole, this program is the read for you.
Behind this special edition of Girly Show, there is a second edition of Girly Show that is much more visual and heavily focuses on collage. Here are some pages:
While many zines are collaged feminist works and calls to action, there are also many other forms a zine can take. The next folder in the collection houses a 2003 zine from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, called 801. This zine, presenting more like a nicely bound book, is a self-proclaimed, “magazine of stories, about ordinary people who do curious things in the name of service.” While it strays from the collection title by containing pieces written by non-women, it is radical in its own way — by giving the spotlight to corners of life that are regularly ignored or rejected. Stories highlight taxi drivers, corpse embalmers, and women who pick lice out of kids’ hair.
The third zine in the collection brings another topic. The zine is titled A Gentrification Reader, Special Updated 2nd Edition. On the cover, next to the three dollar price recommendation, is a note that reads, “free to prisoners + homeless.” Its first edition was published in 1997. It is an assemblage of art, essays, comics, newspaper clippings and more in 63 pages, with a two part introduction by the curator “SKOt!” which can be seen below:
While I would absolutely adore spending all my hours at work reading and describing zines, I think I should stop here for now. As you can see, there is enormous variety in this collection, and surprises in every folder. The point of this blog piece is to say, “this is here, this is cool!” So, if this has piqued your interest, grab a friend, head over to Special Collections and Archives (or give them a call to arrange an appointment), and request a box from the Women’s Zine Collection to celebrate Women’s History Month.