Festival of the Photocopier – celebrating zines with Sticky Institute

Sticky Institute

I first learned of Sticky Institute at the inaugural Screen Futures conference in Melbourne in 2011. Luke presented a history of Sticky and discussed the possibilities of zines in relation to the media components of students completing the Victorian Certificate of Education. Of course I had encountered zines before, but not in numbers and without a dedicated shop that supported their creation and distribution.
poster at Melbourne Town Hall

Visiting the shop after opening on Saturday, I was captivated by the music of June Jones from The Girl Fridas. I took a position in the doorway, then moved outside and perused the table of zines created by members of the band: Alice, guitarist and creator of Fawnography; Bianca, drummer, whose images from Thighs formed the window display; Shannon, bassist who wrote This Day Last Year.

June Jones at Sticky Institute

I became part of a conversation that resulted in being invited to be part of the 2 pm tour of the zine collection within the Rare Books section of the State Library. I gladly accepted.

Meeting the group on the library steps, librarian John escorted us through reading rooms, swiped his card, and we arrived at a large worktable within the Maps, Rare Books and Children’s Literature room. Before us sat several large grey storage boxes. John gave a short history of zines and the process for sorting the collection which is undertaken by volunteers. Cataloguing zines began in the late 90s as a joint project between the Arts Collection and Rare Books, with the Dewey system being abandoned in favour of organising according to years or dates and titles. Some 12 years ago, zines became recognised as texts in their own right and this process of safely storing zines became an imperative as the rise in popularity of the internet led some to believe that zines would disappear.

Many zines lack precise dates of publication, or authorial name, which led to the decision to organise collections according to time, but means that material cannot be found through conventional library searches. Currently, volunteers identify helpful fields of categorisation and enter information of boxed zines into a spreadsheet that serves as an index system for future reference.

With care, we spent an hour on our own personal reading adventure. Sitting in front of me was a box labelled MCA Zine Fair Collection, 2009, Box 4 of 5.

Just sitting looking through the one box, a box within a room among a group within the library – a moment of a collection of deeply personal ideas and images and emotions. Enthralled by the work of Leigh Rigozzi and Nature Morte …

On a nearby table sat a collection of Murder Can Be Fun titles and a donated collection of original photos and proofs used in the production of Dark Angel from the late 20th century Goth scene.

There are some 10,000 titles currently on the database, with many more waiting to be catalogued.

returned to the stacks


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