The cover of 3:00, by Beth Heinly and Maureen Cummings (2007) (all images courtesy the Special Collections Research Center at Temple University Libraries)

The cover of 3:00, by Beth Heinly and Maureen Cummings (2007) (all images courtesy the Special Collections Research Center at Temple University Libraries)

Temple University is amassing one of the biggest collections of artists’ zines in the US. The Philadelphia school is adding about 360 self-published art books and magazines to its library’s special collections thanks to the artist and zine-maker Beth Heinly.

Top Shelf cover, spring 1996

Top Shelf cover (spring 1996) (click to enlarge)

“With the collection I’m donating, a large part of it is from Philadelphia’s alternative art scene, including artists’ books, catalogs, comics, art criticism journals, poetry, perzines, photozines, and fiction — that is all being archived so students and the public will be able to see it as it was collected for years to come,” Heinly told Hyperallergic over email. “The cataloguing part of making the zine archive has only increased my own knowledge and familiarity of the collection … I was younger when the Riot Grrrl zine culture was thriving, so it was a unique opportunity to get to see those zines.”

Heinly helped build a zine collection at Little Berlin, a nonprofit art space in Philadelphia’s hardscrabble Kensington neighborhood. But after many of the 500 zines in Little Berlin’s collection began to deteriorate due to factors including vandalism and the lack of climate control, she was eager to find a more permanent home for them.

“They approached me and at the time the zine collection from Little Berlin was in storage as a result to the gallery being temporarily shut down by the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections,” Heinly explained. “It was perfect timing and I had been wanting to pair up with a public library or university for some time.”

Vox Populi catalogue cover (2010)

Vox Populi catalogue cover (2010) (click to enlarge)

Heinly’s Little Berlin zine archive now forms the core of the collection of artists zines at the Special Collections Research Center at Temple University Libraries. About 160 zines from her collection are already at Temple, with another 200 still waiting to be catalogued and moved. Meanwhile Little Berlin, of which she is no longer a member, has committed to acquiring a duplicate of every new zine that is added to its zine library, with the second copy going to Temple, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“We already hold about 750 science fiction fanzines, and another 150 or so zines created by local and regional artists and writers,” Margery N. Sly, the director of the Special Collections Research Center, told Hyperallergic. “We received the fanzine collections from a couple donors and have purchased periodically to add to them. Our art librarian, Jill Luedke, has been actively collecting and purchasing zines for the last several years. Adding Beth Heinly’s collection helps us continue to grow our existing collection. And we’ll continue to purchase and accept donations to build our collections that document contemporary culture and art on paper. We also hold over 600 artists’ books, some of which are zine-like.”

Philagov cover (issue two)

Philagov cover (issue two)

“They are experimenting with how to use the archive they are amassing,” Heinly said. “Already the zines I donated have been used in the classroom at Temple.”

The Temple zine archive is also available for the public to consult, and an online exhibition drawing from the collection is in the very early planning stages.

The new Temple artists’ zine archive may be growing, but for the time being it is the city’s second-largest. The Soapboax, an independent publishing hub in West Philadelphia, has a zine library that number 1,200 volumes. And other universities on the East Coast have started to make space for zines in their libraries, from the Barnard Zine Collection in New York to the collection of feminist zines at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library. At Temple, the zine archive is already proving to be an exceptional resource for art students.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...