Public Collectors Author to Speak at Harold Washington Library Center

Over the years Marc Fischer has collaborated with the Chicago Public Library in documenting local art history with the Chicago Artists’ Archive by donating materials, promoting the collection, referring artists and otherwise keeping us on our toes.

Fischer's new book is about people who collect cultural materials that are beyond the purview of big institutions like the library. He will give an Author Talk at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11 in the Chicago Authors Room on the 7th floor of the Harold Washington Library Center. Fischer's display of underground music fanzines from the late 1980s to the early 1990s is in the flat exhibit cases on the 8th floor of the Harold Washington Library Center through April 24. We sat down with him to learn more about these current projects.

Q: Your display of music fanzines from the late 1980s to the early 1990s is fascinating. What are some of your favorite bands from that time period?

A: Poison Idea, Raw Power, Negazione, B.G.K., Corrosion of Conformity, Voivod and Celtic Frost. In general I liked angry political hardcore bands and the more artistic metal bands.

Q: Your new book is about Public Collectors, the organization you founded. What does Public Collectors do?

A: Public Collectors started with the idea that there are many types of cultural artifacts that public libraries, museums and other institutions either do not collect or do not make freely accessible. Public Collectors asks individuals that have these materials to make their collections public by sharing them in some way. Public Collectors is particularly interested in sharing stories from the margins of culture—histories that are not widely circulated.

Q: Why is Public Collectors needed when the library is full of materials that people can check out for free?

A: Libraries provide amazing access to things, but I'm also interested in building community around objects and knowledge in a person-to-person way, rather than just person to object. While it is critical that libraries preserve things, collectors often have deep knowledge and experience with the things they've chosen to save, and I'm interested in the collaborative potentials when people work together outside of institutional channels.

Q: What do you think drives people to collect?

A: It's hard to generalize. For myself some collections grow out of other things I do, like teaching, self-publishing and exchanging materials with other publishers, research, or listening to music and wanting to hear more bands within a particular genre. Other collections are the more accidental result of experiences I want to have in the world—places I want to go and the things I find in those places. Other kinds of collecting, like record collecting, have strong communities that develop around those objects; collecting those objects becomes a way of participating in a larger social network that is rewarding beyond just acquiring things.