Presented by Chris Wilde

Session Notes: 
Chris Wiles lead a virtual tour of the the Queer Zine Archive Project in Milwalkee, WI. He began by introducing the history. QZAP began as a website in 2003. The idea emerged from Queer Eruption where Chris and Milo met in the San Francisco Bay Area. Folks identified need for archive for queer radical thought and queer zines. 

A brief history of queer zines: They first began circulating in the late 70s, but are recognized as having their heyday in mid 1980s. Of course, this is still happening and the tradition continues. QZAP rejects that zines have ever gone away, and rejects that zines are incompatible with the internet.

Chris identifies queer zines as primary source documentation especially for marginalized communities, particularly queer and queer people of color. He identifies queer zines as having started as punks scanning zines that they got and sharing them widely at low to no cost. Zines help prevent queer voices from being erased, especially QPOC voices.

Chris then delved into the history of the physical QZAP space and gave a tour of the facilities. River West neighborhood in Milwaukee was established in the 1880s: mixed working class and immigrant neighborhood. German and Polish families originally lived in the house which now holds QZAP. 

Now River West is one of the most integrated neighborhoods in one of the most segregated cities in America. The QZAP house is considered a Polish flat. To expand the house it was raised on stilts and a basement would have been built rather than being built on top of the house. Chris estimates that the basement was probably built during the great depression.The house was owned by the same family from 1920s-1999. It is now owned by Milo’s family. As a community based archive, the security of owning the physical space is foundational.

Chris then moved his camera around to show the physical space of QZAP. It is accessible and open to visitors, researchers, and friends. It is not a fully open call. Prior to the pandemic, QZAP hosted volunteers as well as researchers.

The main space has a series of file cabinets. It all started with 2, over time has grown 22 filing cabinets plus 3 drawer vertical files. 

The collection originated as Milo and Chris’s personal zine collections which were collected through zine swaps, zine fairs, and other collecting practices.

Chris uses an interesting versatile cabinet labeling system: magnetic numbers and letters! They make rearranging titles much easier. The organization of the collections are according to a bit of provenance, a bit of alphabetization. One of the collections which was donated all together was the Honza collection. Honza was a radical fairy whose zines were donated by friends. This collection includes ephemera such as screen printed shirts from the Queeruption. 

Another collection is the Billie rain collection. Billie Rain was a part of Riotgrrl in the 1990s and ran Riotgrrrl press at the time. Chis is exploring how to decolonize collecting queer zines. This is one example! Billie posted on FB that they wanted to get rid of their collection, but wanted it to stay together. The queer community suggested QZAP, and the collection was donated. The collection is accompanied by vinyl records (including original Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, The Fake’s, and much more. QZAP facilitates listening to records or cassettes while researching for more holistic experience. To allow for this, they built a whole stereo system! The idea behind this is to expand on the multimodal interactive element of engaging with queer materials. 

Another collection came from the University of Milwaukee deaccessions. This includes a set of One magazine, which was the first publication in the United States to cover LGBTQ topics in the 1950s. There are also physique magazines and other materials from the 50sand 60s.

Accompanying all of these materials QZAP has began collecting monographs.

The space also offers a kitchen, a futon, and a bathroom!

The work station has in QZAP offers access to an iMac and an overhead document camera. This was developed through local fundraising events and donations.

Chris then switched over to using the overhead camera to get a better look at some of the materials in the collection. Of course, digitizing zines is a whole ethical can of worms. QZAP always gets permission before scanning and uploading materials. Some of the materials displayed, they do not have permission to fully scan and upload. This presentation was accompanied by a historical accounting of the zines.

Some of the zines that were presented included:

  • Homeboy Beautiful from 1978. It was recently reissued by a Los Angeles collective. It is a chicano queer zine.
  • Yes, Ms. Davis created by Vaginal Davis, a very famous queer zine creator.
  • An israeli trans zine.
  • An indian queer zine – The Gaysi Zine.
  • Tuententinte which began in the early Berlin drag scene.
  • Dykes and Their Hair
  • Lesbian Herstory Archives
  • An original RIOT GRRRRL zine
  • Ring of Fire, a queer crip zine. “Queer crips rock my ass off!”
  • Lezzie Smut

Chris concluded by inviting everyone to come and visit the archive when the pandemic is over!