From Magazines to Zines

Throughout November and December 2017 and January 2018, 10 teachers and 212 students from 9 Miami-Dade County schools visited The Wolfsonian–FIU to participate in the museum’s third edition of our Zines for Progress program. These visits included students from G. Holmes Braddock Senior High,…

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…Hialeah Gardens High School,…

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…iPreparatory Academy,…

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…José Martí MAST,…

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…Miami Beach Senior High,…

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…Miami Norland Senior High,…

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…South Miami Senior High,…

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…Southwest Miami Senior High,…

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…and Terra Environmental Research Institute.

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As was done in the previous year, the museum’s education program coordinator, Zoe Welch, brought each group of students up to the library for presentations that introduced them first to the history of zines. The students were afterwards exposed to various types of bindings, cover design and illustration, typography, artistic styles, photomontage, and unusual papers and materials that might be used in the creation of their own small-edition run of zines.

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All photographs courtesy of Zoe Welch

Finally, the students were encouraged to look at a display of thematically oriented materials specifically tailored to the subjects they and their classroom teachers had requested, before creating their own class zines.

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Emerging as an abbreviated version of magazine, the “zine” is most commonly defined as a work of original (or appropriated) art, text, and images inexpensively produced by a single person or small group of individuals. Typically, a zine is reproduced using inexpensive and simple methods, and was helped by new technologies such as Xerox photocopying machines and desktop publishing software. Unlike the periodicals published by commercially driven companies and institutions that were intended to circulate to large audiences, zines were designed to reach out to and communicate with smaller, specific groups or subcultures. The content of a zine could take on a wide variety of formats ranging from handwritten, typed, and comic book-style text and imagery. Zines have dealt with a broad range of topics as well, including politics and poetry, personal and social issues, art and graphic design, and a host of taboo topics ignored by mainstream magazines.

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Some of the first zine “prototypes” emerged in the United States during the 1930s. With nearly 600,000 youths dropping out of school, hopping freight trains, and hitching rides in a desperate search for work, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it a priority to address the problem of street kids and delinquency. Within a couple of months of assuming office, FDR enrolled 250,000 of these unemployed urban youths in Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps situated across the country in state and national parks. In these camps, FDR’s “tree army” were given uniforms, were fed and housed in barracks, and worked planting trees, building roads and bridges, compensated with a monthly salary of $30. In their off-hours, the CCC boys were encouraged to take advantage of educational, vocational, and technical training programs designed to better their future employment prospects. To encourage their literacy skills, many CCC units self-published zines intended to circulate in a single camp using carbon paper and hand-cranked mimeograph machines.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised Gift

The Wolfsonian holds a number of these CCC camp news bulletins. The cover page typically features some amateur artist drawings, while the contents include typed-up poetry, jokes and humorous cartoons, and sports news. The six or seven pages were most often joined with a simple staple binding.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised Gift

In the 1930s, mainstream presses and publishers also facing an uncertain economic future churned out cheap, mass-produced “true crime” and science fiction “pulps.”

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

The latter genre generated such fan mail and critiques by skeptical amateur science buffs, that the publishers began reprinting and recirculating their letters and addresses as fanzines. While zines (or their prototypes, then) originated during the Great Depression, they experienced a major revival in the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1970s, spurred on by fans of the Punk Rock music scene.

The Miami-Dade students visiting The Wolfsonian were inspired by the design and format of magazines in our library to produce zines of their own. The students had the opportunity to look over some 100-year-old magazines and books with traditional sewn bindings and others with Orientalist silk ties.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase, Acquisitions Fund

They also had the chance to see some modernist masterpieces with plastic and metal spiral bindings, and even an Italian Futurist book held together with aluminum bolts.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In addition to discussing different strategies for binding their zines, we also examined a variety of cover illustration designs, paying particular attention to typography and artistic styles ranging from realistic versus surrealist or abstract imagery, and techniques like collage and photomontage.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

We also talked about the use of unconventional materials such as foils, plastics, textiles, and transparencies to attract the attention and enhance the experience of the reader.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In advance of each class visit, the participating teachers supplied us with a list of themes and subject matter chosen by the students. For each group, we painstakingly laid out materials from our collection that would reflect on the widely ranging issues they wished to explore in their own personalized zines.

Some students focused on the issue of body image and beauty culture.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Robert J. Young

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Environmental concerns was another issue brought up by the students. While our collection predates concerns with climate change and sea-level rise, we do have some materials dealing with the Dust Bowl—the greatest ecological crisis of the twentieth century—and Expo ’74, the first ecology-themed world’s fair.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Christopher DeNoon

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca

Animal cruelty, exploitation for entertainment, animal testing, and the fur trade were other popular subjects among the students.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Other students were interested in exploring how clothing manufacturers and the fashion industry have been able to manipulate and persuade people into buying certain brands.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While some students focused on the issue of bullying in general, others focused more specifically on LGBTQ issues and prejudices towards persons based on sexual orientation. The library holds a children’s book published just a year before U.S. intervention in the Second World War, for example, that noted that most bullies acted out to cover up their own insecurities and argued that the best way to handle the ultimate bully was to laugh at his pretensions.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Pamela K. Harer

The library had on display a number of gay, lesbian, and bisexual-themed “pulp” paperbacks from the early 1950s for these students to peruse.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Given the prominence in the news of the Black Lives Matter movement, racism, racial stereotyping, racial injustice, and ethnic prejudices were popular themes with the visiting students as well. The Wolfsonian–FIU Library holds a wealth of material on such subjects.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of David Almeida & Gina Wouters

The Me Too movement appears to have generated some scholarly interest among the high school students, many of whom expressed interest in male chauvinism, gender inequality issues, the sexualizing and objectification of women, and gender-role stereotyping.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of David Almeida & Gina Wouters

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

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The Wolfsonian gratefully acknowledges the financial support of Wells Fargo for the museum’s Zines for Progress program. You can search and view completed zines from past cycles at zines.wolfsonian.org.

~ by "The Chief" on February 7, 2018.

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