As historic archives become increasingly digital, it's time to introduce an exciting new collection to the UK.
Libraries around the world are grappling with the challenges of digitising collections, to bring materials alive for a 21st century audience. Among the archives, the niche monographs, zines and pamphlets could all too easily be forgotten in our drive to digitise content.
A solution to this particular challenge has been found in Independent Voices, a collection of alternative press from the late 1960s, 70s and 80s, which expressed the upsurge of dissent and change within American youth culture.
Jisc has worked with Reveal Digital to bring this innovative crowd-funded model to the UK, with 10 universities signed up so far. The project with this US-based publishing innovator allows UK universities to purchase early access to these resources, otherwise unavailable to students or reserchers in any format.
Researchers and students at participating universities will have early access to 750,000 pages, documenting movements such as the LGBT community resistance to police harassment at Stonewall, the civil rights movement’s struggle against the Vietnam war, the various stances of a radical women’s liberation movement and the dissident voices of GIs drafted to fight in Vietnam.
Dr Ann Kaloski Naylor, lecturer at the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of York, is passionate about preserving access to this type of content:
“Independent Voices is an exciting and important initiative for feminist scholarship. Although there is now a huge array of easily accessible work on women’s lives, gender theory and feminist perspectives, the discipline is still very young, and often rooted in grassroots movements from the 1960s onwards. The community nature of these ideas means that much significant work was produced in pamphlet form and, later, zines and in short-run magazines and books. This work is easily lost and key ideas are misrepresented.
"Current feminism has a strong relationship to (and perhaps even reliance on) the internet, and digitising material will allow recent history to become visible as well as accessible to younger scholars. The potential of exposing such material outside of small-scale archives and localised groups will likely be felt in related intellectual work in cultural and literary studies, history and sociology.”
Through the agreement between Jisc and Reveal Digital there will be access to a huge range of content which is not available elsewhere in the UK. At present, 10% of the collection is open and by January 2019 the entire collection, including print runs of 1,000 titles, will also be accessible to the public.
To increase the resources available, Jisc has decided to designate 50% of the revenue from UK institutions to undertake the digitisation of similar underground and independent press content from UK sources. This activity will enhance the US offer and the digitised content will be available from Jisc, in addition to the Independent Voices website.
Following the interest in the Reveal Digital collection, Jisc will be inviting UK universities and research institutes to propose similar collections for digitisation. This offer is available to universities until 31 December 2017.
The categories of historical underground press material being considered are feminism, LGBT rights and the struggle for racial equality, although others such as punk zines may be considered.
For any initial enquiries, contact Peter Findlay, digital portfolio manager at Jisc.