Episode 165, first aired 25 October 2015 with James Hyman in discussion. Listen to the audio below.
Gaby Roslin interviewed James about the Hyman Archive for Collector’s Corner on BBC London. Listen to the audio below.
For over 25 years, James Hyman has been collecting magazines, pamphlets, newsletters, brochures, ephemera and other printed material. The theme of Hyman’s collecting is ‘popular culture in print’.
The Hyman Archive contains over 3,000 individual title publications and over 70,000 individual issues, with the collection still growing at approximately 20% per annum.
The collection spans the period 1910 to present day. More than 55% of the title publications are not to be found in the British Library.
The Hyman Archive, although curated and focused on popular culture, includes a broad-array of subject matter, including Film, TV, Music, Music video, Art, Fashion, Architecture, Interior design, Trends, Youth, Lifestyle, Women’s, Men’s, Technology, Sports, Photography, Counter-culture, Graphics, Animation, and Comics.
In its efforts to preserve popular culture in print, The Hyman Archive welcomes donations of magazines, ephemera and printed materials from publishers, collectors and enthusiasts. If you are interested in donating, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Four years ago, I was invited to archive James Hyman’s music library. There were a lot of CDs – 40,174 to be exact. It took a while – about three weeks – but was relatively painless. I thought James was mad, in a brilliant way, and found him intense and the job satisfying. A year later, James got in touch again and asked me to archive his magazine collection. He’d mentioned the archive a couple of times in passing, and I thought if it was anything like the CD collection, it would be a worthwhile project to be involved in. The experience was to become more culturally enriching and satisfying than I had ever imagined.
Filmmaker Angus Dunsire has created a short documentary film about The Hyman Archive for The Atlantic. The film tells the story of some of the inspiration and motivations behind the collection and the efforts to preserve it.
See the video here or read the article in The Atlantic: Editors’ Picks: The Man With the Most Magazines in the World.
Fast forward to 2013, and the 50,000-plus collection (some two-thirds are UK titles) has entered the Guinness World Records as the largest of its kind. It’s beginning a new lease of life as a valuable reference tool, snapshot of an era, and case-in-point for the value of print in a digital age.
To reach the sitting room at Hyman’s London home, you have to walk along a corridor wholly lined on one side with magazines. The sofas are encircled by piles of publications. Large cupboard doors hang open to reveal yet more, with hundreds of obscure as well as more familiar publications amongst the 2,500-plus titles. The passion behind the collection is palpable, with Hyman, and now his wife and young son, living and breathing it on a daily basis.
The sheer volume of printed matter means that the collection has steadily been placed in storage over the years, as Hyman ran out of space. When Hyman and archivist and curator Tory Turk settled down to catalogue them all, they thought it would be a month’s work. It took nearly a year.
Their next aim is to digitise the entire collection, so that every article is instantly available. “We’d love to see it in a museum,” says Hyman, “with the digitising procedure as a living art installation while the process is happening: people wearing gloves in Perspex boxes, with real-time projections on the walls of what, being scanned. It would be amazing to use crowdsourcing to meta-tag the digitised collection. Someone might realise that they took that photo or they have a missing edition.”
“A lot of the magazines don’t know who took what photo or wrote that piece,” Turk explains, “so its about people reclaiming their history, and a little bit of glory, which has often been lost. Right now, that is more important than ever.”
The earliest editions are a couple of National Geographics from the 1920s. How do Hyman and Turk define popular culture and decide which publications to include? To Hyman, it’s not just about fashion, music and film, but goes deeper, into comic strips, creativity, art and more.
Adds Turk: “The artefacts of vintage National Geographies are part of popular culture, even though the content might not seem so in an obvious sense. They are iconic, and people love them.”
The archive is already making itself useful. It provided magazine research that ended up as a wall of quotes for the 2013 David Bowie is exhibition at the V&A, loaned a rare 1952 edition of the NME to the BBC (which even the NNE didn’t have). lent materials to Amazon, pop-up trainer exhibition, and provided copies to the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery for their recent Mods exhibition.
Hyman hopes that people who hear about the archive will contribute magazines to fill any gaps. “The Internet has holes,” says Turk. “Plus, it’s too easy online; anyone can publish anything. it’s about quality.”
“Exactly,” expands Hyman. “When you saw a copy of the NME, so many people worked on it; they really thought about it. Digital is so quick; I think there is more value in the effort that’s gone into printed material, which can’t be altered.”
Besides, he adds, “We still live in a physical world. There’s something special about printed matter you can hold. Magazines are organic, near human: they can get ripped, yellowed, stained, even die. I read a lot online, but I love the magazines.”
“It doesn’t matter that we don’t have every magazine ever,” asserts Turk. “Our remit is to preserve this golden era of magazines.” Watch this storage space.
WORDS: AMY DRON
“An unrivalled collection, The Hyman Archive is a phenomenal walk-in search engine.”Thomas Markert, Creative Director, Amazon Kindle
“A potential goldmine for Content Marketing types.”Mat Morrison, Social Marketing Strategy Director at Starcom MediaVest Group
“It was what we hadn’t been able to get from the Bowie Archive…The Hyman Archive came back with exactly what we were looking for.”Vicky Broackes, Theatre and Performance Curator, V&A
“An unparalleled reference.”Malcolm Green, Writer & Director, Founding Creative Partner Green Cave People, DLKW
“A fantastically useful tool for the PPA, publishers, readers and anybody passionate about magazines.”Barry McIlhenney, CEO Professional Publishers Association (PPA)
“The Hyman Archive is a unique collection which will be invaluable to all sorts of people…a perfect case study for mass digitisation.”Sarah Faulder, Chief Executive, Publishers Licensing Society (PLS)
“So valuable because it pre-dates digitisation…the value to the future is incomprehensible… it’s like not having a library.”Nick Raphael, President, Capitol Records UK (Universal Music Group)
“An education in late 20th century culture: it’s youth, music, fashion, sex. A library established through a committed labour of love, it’s a heavy testament to magazines changing lives.”Ronojoy Dam, Creative Director, Vice
“It would be my first port of call for any new project… it would be my new Google.”Sharmadean Reid, Brand Consultant (Former Marketing Manager, Nike)
“A veritable catalogue of modern era culture press, it’s gargantuan, documenting key youth, fashion, trends, music, film and arts. Dizzyingly comprehensive.”Jamie Caring – Chief Marketing Officer at Soho House Group
“The breadth and depth of knowledge waiting to be uncovered in Hyman’s archive is truly amazing.”Ben Whyman, Fashion Curation, University of The Arts London
“When sourcing an NME from 1952 for the BBC (‘Pop Charts Britannia’), NME didn’t have a copy and the British Library was inaccessible; the Hyman Archive delivered. A great resource for historical documentaries.”Tamsin Curry – Freelance Assistant Producer
The Hyman Archive is located at The Stock Room, Canon House, Woolwich Arsenal, London. Although the collection is not open to public viewing, we do offer a reading room and research facility on a paid basis, all proceeds from which are put towards the cost of maintaining the Hyman Archive.
For information about access and rates, please contact email@example.com.
Currently, the Hyman Archive is not available digitally. However, we hope to be able to offer digital access with search functionality in the near future.