The Zine Scenes project is a simultaneously archival and inventive initiative led by Alana Kumbier (project leader), Michele Hardesty, and Leslie Fields. ‘Zine Scenes’ is the name of the project’s final format: an interactive website with narrative game elements through which visitors can encounter zines and the subcultures in which they were produced and circulated. The platform is designed to help visitors encounter zines within the specific subcultural conditions of their emergence by communicating historical and sociological information about the contexts in which zines were (and continue to be) made and shared.

Kumbier, Hardesty, and Fields use the digital to evoke the relational, highly interpersonal modes and cultures of zine dissemination and to help ‘digital natives’ understand what it was like to encounter and participate in communities of zine makers and readers before the spread of email, online social networks, and digitized collections. It is in this critical way that the project sets itself apart from existing digital zine resources—Zine Scenes not only digitizes zines and makes them accessible online, but creates a participatory mode for re/engaging both physical and digital zines as a contextual medium.

The Five College Consortium is host to a surprising number of zines, with an emphasis on those by women and queer creators. Mount Holyoke College’s Archives and Special Collections holds the Margaret Rooks Papers, which contain a large number of zines related to the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s. The Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College contains an even larger “Girl Zines Collection” (9 linear feet), built on a donation from author Tristan Taormino and focusing on zines that explore “third wave” feminism, lesbian and queer issues, and body image. The Harold F. Johnson Library at Hampshire College hosts a zine library of over 800 individual issues that was started by students in 1990s and is now part of the library infrastructure itself. Outside the colleges themselves, there is an active zine library at the Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton that currently houses approximately 2400 zines, covering a wide range of subjects, including feminist and queer activism and experience. Zine Scenes starts with research and theorizations of these collections in the Pioneer Valley and will continue to broaden its scope across the United States.


Below: A lightning talk by Leslie Fields, Alana Kumbier, and Michele Hardesty on Zine Scenes from the 5CollDH 2014 Kick-Off Event.

Project Members:

Alana Kumbier
Critical Social Inquiry & Digital Pedagogy Librarian,
Hampshire College

Michele Hardesty
Assistant Professor of U.S. Literatures,
School of Humanities, Arts, & Cultural Studies (HACU), Hampshire College

Leslie Fields
Head of Archives and Special Collections,
Mount Holyoke College