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Contribution : “La Fanzinothèque de Poitiers: 25 years supporting alternative press" by Samuel Delahaye

Dedicated to creation and transmission of the ephemeral underground activity of zine publishing, La Fanzinothèque located in Poitiers, France has just celebrated twenty five years of subculture supporting.

A paradoxical ambition.
As a documentation center specialized in small underground publishing, La Fanzinothèque collects, archives and preserves all kinds of zines. Publications made by fans, with little resources and without financial aim, those ephemeral objects are the witnesses of an ever-evolving alternative culture encompassing every artistic activity: fantastic cinema in Mad Movies, punk music in Sniffin’ Glue are gathered with fifty thousand other publications at the zine library.

Despite the wide range of available zines, theirs authors can be linked by a common thread: their commitment to comment and share those underground topics. Zines can be seen as forms of horizontal media, produced by fans and shared between them to build communities far from the traditional hierarchy between professional writers and readers as consumers. However, they offer precious sources of information underlined by an artistic side which both turns them into heritage objects requiring a documentary process of storage. Such an ambition might be hampered by the material nature of zines. Their fragility, their limited production and the reluctance of their authors to enter any legal deposit system make them come into conflict with any book conservation public organization. Here is enough to justify the existence of an organization such as La Fanzinothèque, which prevents most of zines from being doomed to oblivion.

An old and sustainable public support
La Fanzinothèque has relied on the support of the city of Poitiers since its creation in 1989 after a proposal of the youth council. By providing walls and an annual grant for the organization, the city gave the conditions for La Fanzinothèque to avoid the ephemeral fate particular of zine culture. Several paid positions allow a day to day management, events organization as well as long term strategies development. With the help of students of the nearby University, the digitalization of the huge documentary collection is currently the zine library’s priority.

Sustaining a culture hidden by new information technologies is necessary. This collective undertaking strengthens La Fanzinothèque public interest mission. The organization thereby shares a common mission with a public library, of which “collections have to represent contemporary tendencies and evolutions of society as well as memory of mankind and products of its imagination”, as UNESCO stated in a manifesto written in 1994. However, its associative basis keeps it independent, a necessary feature to support underground cultures in which it operates. 

Samuel Delahaye, Master 1 PCC Université d’Avignon