Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Queer Zine Archive Project

Founded in 2003 in Milwaukee, the Queer Zine Archive Project is a growing and diverse collection of zines. QZAP digitizes zines donated to them from personal collections or authors, and the participation of the QZAP-ers on panels about zine librarianship, their links with zine distros, and their connections with zine libraries all build a reputation for the archive that helps to generate donations as well as volunteers. The collection is diverse in its content, including zines from 1978 through the present, and including zines in English, French, Spanish, Catalan, Arabic, and Hebrew. The diversity of the collection documents the history of the genre and also emphasizes the vitality of ongoing queer life. The website provides a brief narrative history of the project along with useful collection information: fair use information (a page that educates users about copyright law as well as the commitment of most zinesters to the creative commons), acknowledgements (which give information about QZAP’s funding through grants and its recent collaborations with UWM), and the QZAP blog (which offers a running commentary on the state and growth of the collection). The website also offers users tips to guide readers through the features of the collection, and it also invites readers to encounter new zines by profiling and linking a different “random zine” each time you open or move through the website. These features make the website a bit cluttered but make the collection useable.

Objects in the collection exist as PDF files. This is a good format for the zines in the sense that the page images of the multiple-page objects are not separately stored but are downloadable in a single document; the PDF documents are also easy to magnify. However, clicking on the “download in original format” link takes you out of the webpage, which is a bit distancing. The link’s promise of the “original format” of the zines is also a bit confusing; it looks like some of the zines may have originally been electronic files for printing or sharing, while others have paper originals that are scanned. The scanned zines seem more appealing, because they retain the textured quality that makes zines interesting.

QZAP’s metadata for each object includes the zine title, author, year, location, number of pages, language, keywords, date the file was added, the size of the digital object, and whether the zine is part of a donated or historical collection. There is no capability to link to other zines with shared keywords or in the collection; for this, users have to perform a keyword search or click on the collection icon in the zine gallery. There is no information about materials, appearance, provenance, or author biography. There is no narrative about how keywords are chosen, but The lack of linking makes it difficult to navigate the archive, but QZAP notes that its interface is ever-changing. In fact, the blog recently added a link to QZAP’s Internet Archive page, which includes links to the changing appearance of the website since its foundation. The search function recently expanded to include, in addition to keyword, language, city, or year searches; and the site notes that the will eventually “have an OPAC catalog online for those who prefer to view library data.”

QZAP notes that it’s intended audience is “other queers, researchers, historians, punks, and anyone else who has an interest DIY publishing and underground queer communities.”

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