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Zines! Celebrating Maker Culture at the WVU Downtown Campus Library

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 10th, 2018

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

On Friday, October 5th, zine lovers and makers came to the Downtown Campus Library to create pages for a collaborative zine as part of the 2018 Morgantown Zine Festival.  The word “zine,” according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, is short for magazine, specifically “a noncommercial often homemade or online publication usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subject matter.”

We were also celebrating one of our newest archival collections, zines by West Virginia zine makers.  Last fall the West Virginia and Regional History Center began collecting zines from around the state.  Donor Bryan Richards, of the Travelin’ Appalachians Revue, has been the major donor of this collection.  He is also one of the organizers of the Zine Fest and designer of this year’s poster, shown below, advertising a weekend’s worth of activities and music.

Advertisement for 2018 Morgantown Zine Festival

As the rare books curator, creating an archival collection for the West Virginia and Regional History Center is not usually within my job description.  However, after taking a course at the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School that included a history of zines, I was eager to start a collection.  Luckily WVU Professor of Graphic Design, Joe Galbreath, connected me with Bryan Richards and now we have a growing collection of zines by West Virginia artists.

Prominent among these artists is Emily Prentice, of Elkins.  She is known as a zine artist throughout the West Virginia zine community.  I first met her at last year’s Appalachian Studies Association conference where she was hosting a zine workshop.  I loved the idea and worked closely with Professor Galbreath, Bryan Richards, and Emily to host a similar event at the WVU Downtown Campus Library.

Woman sitting at table working on a zine

Emily Prentice at work creating zines at the Downtown Campus Library’s Zine Party.

Not a sound could be heard as attendees at the Zine Party cut images from a variety of materials and decorated them with stickers, crayons, markers, string, and other assorted items.  A typewriter was also available to add that extra touch to a zine page in progress.

Woman and man sitting at table working on zines

Sally Deskins, Exhibits and Programs Coordinator for the WVU Libraries, and Bryan Richards, of the Travelin’ Appalachians Revue, are totally absorbed in their zine craft.

I had never tried making zine pages before and it was with some trepidation that I agreed to sit down and attempt my first page.  I must admit that I found the entire experience soothing and relaxing.  I’m not a crafter by nature, so this event took me out of my comfort zone!  I enjoyed the process so much I can’t wait to make more!  Here’s some of the pages I crafted Friday afternoon for the collaborative zine Emily put together from all the pages created that day.

You won’t be surprised that this rare book librarian used images of medieval manuscripts as the basis for her first pages!

Zine page showing birds, text in a fancy font, and text borders

Zine page showing bird, text in a fancy font, and leaves

Liking what I created I decided to go off into uncharted territory for me and try something more modern, more daring, more mixed media.  Here’s the results of that experiment.

Zine page showing heading "The Scissorman" with bird and water bowl and book

Zine page showing parts of a bird image

Zine page showing man on bicycle

A student from the Journalism School, the Reed College of Media, stopped by and filmed the zine party participants for a class project.  She promised to share the finished project with me and I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

Woman working on craft project while another woman takes video.

We all had a great time at the Zine Party and created a terrific collaborative zine that will be added to the West Virginia and Regional History Center West Virginia Zine collection.  We are also adding the individually crafted pages that created the zine so that patrons can see how the zine pages were made before they were put together into the zine format.  Emily created covers for the final product.

Zine page showing row boats

There is also an exhibit in the Downtown Campus Library Lobby displaying many zines from the West Virginia and Regional History Center Zine Collection.  This exhibit is on display for the entire month of October.  Bryan had a great Instagram post about the exhibit that he shared with us.  You can see it here:

Please stop by the West Virginia and Regional History Center if you’d like to see the Zine Collection.  On your way you can stop by the Zine Exhibit in the lobby of the Downtown Campus Library.  We’re accepting donations if you’d like to contribute to the Zine Collection!


Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Travelin” Appalachians Revue:

Emily Prentice:

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