Last week provided the opportunity to reflect on the nature of special collections and the preservation of historic materials. I intended to look at fashion magazines from the early 20th century but found that there were very few in our holdings at Denison Library. I began to develop hypotheses as to why this might be. Perhaps it was due to the founding of Scripps College in 1926—maybe magazines at this time were not preserved because of the relative newness of the college, and not donated later on because women no longer collected and bound volumes of magazines. Maybe the economic hardships caused by World Wars I and II and the Great Depression led to less magazine purchases and printings.
I decided to research this phenomenon and found that magazines were printed and consumed during the early 20thcentury, but they contained more advertisements and Hollywood gossip than the traditional literary magazine. Initially, short stories were printed serially in magazines with the intent to enrich the minds of the reader. As advertisers became more interested in purchasing magazine space, and films led to a new interest in Hollywood, the magazine industry shifted to meet different demands from the public. This would mean that the magazines contained less information that would be pertinent beyond this season in which it was published. I imagine this is one of the reasons why magazines were not bound into volumes and saved as they had previously been in the 18th and 19th centuries.
This week taught me that it can be just as important to consider which materials we do not have. Whose stories were not deemed “literary” or important to contain in a library? As I read a historical account of Women’s Periodicals claiming to study only “mainstream” magazines, I noticed that the author identified mainstream to mean white and middle-class. This book was written in the early 2000’s. Our society, for too long, valued the history that was pertinent to this narrow “mainstream”. As I continue my research, I intend to showcase not only what the library has collected, but also what it may be missing. I hope that through online archives, I will be able to reveal the missing pieces in the exhibit.