We start the new week off with James Hyman, the DJ and presenter at the helm of the largest magazine collection in the world, The Hyman Archive. For over 25 years, James has been collecting magazines, pamphlets and newsletters, preserving an ephemera of printed matter from the time when “magazines were the internet”. We catch up with him as he works on digitalising the archive.
Where are you today?
The Hyman Archive in The Stockroom, Woolwich, London SE18, about to meet Anna Doble from BBC Newsbeat.
What can you see from the window?
Various London landmarks as I’m on the DLR, close to my destination, The Hyman Archive.
Are you a morning or evening person?
Which magazine do you first remember?
I started young with comics and although they are strictly not magazines, I would cite Mad because, although initially launched as a comic in the 50s, it evolved into a magazine through its satirical content.
What’s your favourite magazine from the archive this morning?
60s, 70s & 80s NMEs. We are rebuilding the archive in its new physical space so they are currently being checked and inputted into our system / database. As a result I am spending way too long losing myself in their content!!
What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
The New Yorker, smashes it every time for me; great mix of superb journalism, spot on cartoons and solid pulse on pop culture.
Can you tell us about your strategy for digitalising the collection?
We are working with the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) and industry stakeholder groups (publishers, authors and photographers) to obtain an Extended Collective Licence (ECL) which will enable us to digitise and commercialise the contents of the Archive.
Having obtained an ECL, we will then digitise the archive’s contents – which is continually growing, both with back-issues and new edition issues – highly meta-tag it, as well as add social & cultural analytical functionality to enable people to visualise and manipulate the data.
Undoubtedly, it will be the biggest and most important new print digitalisation project taking place in the world today.
What was the magazine that made you consciously decide to start collecting?
I’d say there were two around the same time. In the late 80s I was a script-writer for MTV Europe and had to write content for the presenters (VJs) to talk about and occupy air time, e.g. pop videos that filled the channel, promote programmes shown throughout the week, and since there was no internet back then, magazines truly were the internet and source of information. As such, I remember scouring “Loot” magazine to buy up back issues of relevant magazines that would have plenty of nuggets to glean from e.g. Q, Empire, Rolling Stone and The Face.
I recall an early purchase of a long run of Q magazine, meeting the seller on a motorway, then thinking after seeing them all that here was a valuable resource of pop culture history to source and reference.
The other was walking one day in Soho (circa 1989) with Sam Houser & Terry Donovan (Grand Theft Auto / RockStar Games) and Sam pointing to the “Electro” cover of The Face from May 1984 (issue 49) in the window of the Vintage Magazine Shop on the corner of Brewer Street. Sam highlighted the availability of back issues and sparked my collecting bug which still pervades today, over 30 years later!
Are there any titles in the archive that you feel haven’t had the kind of recognition that they deserve?
Depends on level of recognition, the following are certainly familiar to those in the know, though most don’t have serious mainstream recognition which, is not a bad thing, in a way, it’s like a great untapped song, you treasure it as your secret: 2600, Colors, Factsheet Five, Fortean Times, Infiltration, Jocks, Little White Lies, Sight & Sound.
How did you originally organise the magazines and how do you organise them now?
Filed alphabetically and chronologically when first archived in 2011 to 2012. I used the same method again after the archive came out of storage 3 years later in August 2015.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
Remembering to be thankful for what I have and hopefully having some time to rummage around in Notting Hill’s Book & Comic Exchange (aka ‘Book Church’), one of my favourite shops and ‘temporary autonomous zones’!
What are you least looking forward to this week?
Forgetting to be thankful for what I have and not ticking off enough things from my to do list.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Keeping on top of my music licensing for new Bobby Moore feature documentary, meeting with BBC Radio 2 to discuss some new programme ideas, and re: Hyman Archive, preparing for talks / appearances at Somerset House, St Bride Library plus a week of meetings in New York.
Photographs of James Hyman by Waj Bukhari