May 11, 2016
Like Borges, but punk: the Maximum Rocknroll archive
by Ryan Harrington
For all of its nihilism, iconoclasm, and scorched-earth rhetoric, punk rock can be awfully nostalgic. It is in that spirit that the venerable punk magazine Maximum Rocknroll has endeavored to amass the largest-ever archive of punk rock material culture.
The San Francisco-based magazine, which has been published monthly since 1982, has launched an (already very successful after one day) IndieGogo campaign to help cover the costs of scanning hardware and server space. And, in true DIY fashion, they are also seeking volunteer support with inventory, transcription, and everything else that goes into so massive an archive project.
About their past, and online future, the magazine says:
As MRR enters its 40th year, we are undertaking our most ambitious project ever: creating a comprehensive online database of our record collection and music reviews. The project will also see out-of-print issues of the magazine fully digitized. We’re asking for your help to make it possible.
Our collection is the largest assemblage of punk material history on earth. In addition to records, the archive is home to countless rare and unheard demo tapes, zines, photographs, one-of-a-kind record covers designed by the magazine’s founder Tim Yohannan, and flyers dating back to the genre’s inception, many of which will be digitized for the first time. MRR has been instrumental in punk history and historiography, and the archive and database will be an essential resource for record collectors, historians, and anyone interested in punk, hardcore, and garage rock.
The magazine, fiercely independent and admirably international in scope, estimates that it receives about 1,800 new records a year, though the incoming materials haven’t been properly inventoried for the last 10 years of the organization’s 40-year run.
The eventual database will be a record collector’s dream, searchable from countless angles and cross-linked to reviews. It will also house out-of-print issues of the magazine that most punkers thought went the way of the word “punker.”
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.