Care for the “elderly” analogue magazines

One Special Interest we most likely share is “old” fashion magazines*). Fashion libraries have been buying or subscribing to print fashion magazines at a modest price for many years. It is common practice that current issues are heavily used for a while and by the time they are archived in the back volumes’ section of the library, they have become dear in more than one sense. They turn into a collection worthy of a museum: invaluable and very vulnerable. But fashion libraries are not  museums:  fashion libraries want their collections to be used.

Digitization still pending
The first option that springs to mind is to digitalize the “old” magazines page by page. There have been promising pilot projects, yes. That is a good thing good, yes. But these
are mere pilot projects and so substantial digitization is still pending. Moreover, it is a subject bristling with discouraging pitfalls such as: copyright, finance, scope, selection, quality, content description… etc.  At the same time we do not know whether publishers have digitalized copies of their paper editions hidden in a safe somewhere.  Maybe some of them have already made a deal with Google? If so, they kept it well up their sleeve…
For the time being, our library users will not stop flicking through paper magazines. So while publishers and librarians are brooding on cunning digitization plans in their respective lairs, I think that in the meantime there is still every reason to attend to “old”
fashion magazines with utmost care. I would be interested to know how other fashion libraries deal with “old” fashion magazines. As a kick-off, I will give  a brief description of how we at AMFI handle them:

Storage of the “elderly”

  1. we keep them in acid free, snug, made-to-measure boxes. This allows for storage in an upright position, very much like a book, preventing the pages from sagging.
  2. the content of each box is limited to portions that are ‘easy to handle with
    caution’, meaning that a box can be taken from the shelf with one hand (like
    most books).
  3. the boxes are designed so as to allow smooth handling without too much abrasion, friction and torsion when a stack is taken out of the box or slid

So much for storage. – Now for the really difficult questions:

How to handle the “elderly”?
How to make sure that library users will handle these magazines properly? How to instruct them properly? Is a solemnly sworn oath, before giving them access to the old magazine section, sufficient guarantee for proper handling? And what is “proper handling” to begin with? Do we really need a detailed protocol for users, that includes imperatives such as : to wear protective gloves to protect the magazines?

Since I would answer the last question with a yes, I am looking forward to your suggestions,  experiences, good or even best practices, as to help me put together a protocol that enables our library users to treat  the “elderly” analogous fashion
magazines with due respect.

…ehm…  Take care!

Fred Goudswaard
librarian AMFI
(Amsterdam Fashion Institute)

*) e.g. Depeche Mode, Face, I-D Magazine, Marie-Claire, Marie-France, Petit Echo de la Mode, Tank, various Vogue editions …etc.

5 thoughts on “Care for the “elderly” analogue magazines”

  1. Hi Sandra and Fred,

    Thank you for recommending our museum and museum library.
    It was a pleasure for us to welcome you here!
    It is true, we ask our visitors to wear surgical gloves (latex free! We don’t want to provoke allergic reactions) and use our book pillow. We prefer the surgical gloves above the cotton ones, because the “fingerspitzengefuhl”, wearing these, is remarkable better.
    It is a good solution for more recent fashion magazines with thicker, glossy paper.
    For the older magazines, we like them to consult the copied versions first (if they are available, not all of them has been scanned yet). If the visitors still want to consult the originals, they can, but on strict supervision because, we all know, the paper is thinner and in most cases very brittle and fragile.
    With our special book scanner, visitors can take high-quality reproductions on a easy and book-friendly way.
    90% of our magazines is stored in acid free boxes, not upright, but in a horizontal position.
    The ones you have seen were probably doubles and very recent ones.

    Everyone is welcome to visit our library during our opening hours:
    – Wednesday 10am-12am and 1pm-4.45pm
    – Thursday 1pm-4.45pm and 6pm-8pm
    – Friday 1pm-4.45pm
    – Saturday (1st&3rd of the month) 10am-1pm
    The library is only opened by appointment during the school holidays.

    Congratulations with the blog btw!

    Birgit Ansoms
    MoMu Antwerp – library assistant and paper/book conservator

  2. Hi Sandra,

    now this is the kind of response i was hoping for. Using surgical gloves as well as pillows: that sounds like genuinely taking care of old fashion magazines. Antwerp is a 2 hours train drive away from Amsterdam. I am on holiday now, but i will pay our Antwerp colleagues a visit within the next few weeks, and I will publish my findings in the FTC SIG blog.

    Fred Goudswaard
    Librarian AMFI
    (Amsterdam Fashion Institute)

    1. Good advice, indeed! Your going to enjoy visiting the MomMu Library in Antwerp, Fred. Birgit is a lovely host, and she and her colleagues have amassed an amazing collection. (Bring your credit card for the wonderful book store downstairs!) I took plenty of notes on their periodicals collection, which I will add to our FTC LibGuide.

      I’m so glad that this group is already generating new connections among fashion librarians.

      By the way – I’m adding new museums and libraries with FTC collections to our LibGuide. If anyone notices that their favorite institution is missing, just let me know!

      Sandra Ley – FTC SIG Moderator

  3. Hi Fred,

    Our library does not retain back issues of fashion magazine, or have the funds to digitize issues. However, last month I visited the ModeMuseum Biblioteek (Fashion Museum Library) in Antwerp: ( Dieter Suls (the librarian in charge) was not present, but the kind library assistants, Lutgart Van Houtven and Birgit Ansoms, showed me around their amazing collection. Like your institution, they have a substantial collection of aging fashion magazines. Because the Royal Academy of Arts fashion design students have access to this collection, I would imagine it gets frequent use.

    I’m sure they could better fill you in on their practices, but I recall that the magazines were stored in acid-free containers (mostly shelved upright). Students are expected to use surgical gloves (provided by the library) to handle the magazines, and to place the magazines over a pillow (not a hard surface) for reading. (Naturally, the pillow was also provided.)

    I know this isn’t much to go on but I will send a message to Dieter this week, tell him about our group, and encourage him to join. Perhaps he will respond to you directly. Otherwise, you could always contact him via their website:

    For everyone else, I would highly recommend a visit to to the museum and library (by appointment.) Exceptional collections both!

    Sandra Ley (FTC SIG Moderator)

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