Skip to Main Content

The Riot Grrrl Collection at New York University

Overview of the Riot Grrrl Collection held at the Special Collections at New York University.

Riot Grrrl Collection Development Policy

Updated January 2016

I. Purpose

The Fales Library & Special Collections serves as the repository for special collections materials in the Elmer Bobst Library at New York University, and is committed to preserving the artistic expression of relevant cultural movements in their original formats, including books, manuscripts, archives, audiovisual materials, and electronic records. Fales complements the collection policies of NYU's general stacks by supplying primary resources for scholarly research, and by prospectively collecting works that will become important historical evidence, documenting changes in expressive culture.

The Riot Grrrl Collection documents the evolution of the Riot Grrrl movement and adjacent activism, particularly in the years between 1989 and 1996. Because Riot Grrrl was (and is) both a political and a cultural movement, its output includes writing, music, performance, film, activism, photography, video, and original art, as well as documentation of activism and performance. Since the founding of the Collection in 2009, the collection mandate has expanded to included documentation of queer and feminist activism and performance that emerged from or was inspired by Riot Grrrl in the late 1990s.

This research collection provides primary resources for scholars who are interested in feminism, punk activism, queer theory, gender theory, DIY culture, and music history.

II. Scope

1. General Guidelines

Although some Riot Grrrl groups were organized and met regularly, Riot Grrrl was not an entirely unified movement. Meetings were similar to the consciousness-raising groups of second-wave feminism, but because Riot Grrrl was disseminated via a network of fanzines and touring bands, it manifested as an attitude and a lifestyle that is difficult to contain or define. Riot Grrrl became a very loose-knit group of not only fanzine writers and musicians, but also budding teen activists, female promoters, artists, concertgoers and journalists. A collection development strategy that is not overly rigid serves best for documenting this informally structured and evolving movement and its adjacent scenes.

2. Chronological and Geographical Aspects

The Riot Grrrl Collection attempts to document the artistic production and activism of the Riot Grrrl movement from 1989 through 1996, as well as related scenes and activism. For the early years, the geographical area of collecting is somewhat limited to the Washington D.C. and Olympia, Washington areas. However, because ideas were disseminated by touring bands and via a network of fanzines, and then later via the popular press, Riot Grrrl groups were quickly formed throughout North America and the United Kingdom; by the end of the collecting period there was a strong national and international network of Riot Grrrl groups, bands and zines, and the scope of collecting is therefore international.

While the initial mandate of the Riot Grrrl Collection was to focus on Riot Grrrl and related scenes between 1989 and 1996, the collection has expanded to include feminist and queer activism emerging from or inspired by Riot Grrrl, queercore, and queer performance in the late 1990s.

3. Primary and Secondary Literature

Fales collects primary materials such as personal papers, original works and publications, the archives of organizations, film, photographs, video, and related ephemera. The Fales Library will collect secondary materials where appropriate.

4. Types of Materials

The primary area of collecting is the personal papers of those involved in the founding and early years of Riot Grrrl and in the creation of early Riot Grrrl zines, music, art and activism, as well as adjacent scenes like queercore. This includes both personal and “working” diaries and notebooks, correspondence, artwork, audio and video recordings, photographs, clippings, and flyers, as well as any source materials relating to the creation of artworks, writings, fanzines, bands, performances or events. We are also interested in the archives of organizations, such as galleries or performance spaces that hosted Riot Grrrl events. While personal papers will by nature contain fanzines, flyers, and media documentation, secondary collections may include a general fanzine collection, a flyer collection, and a media collection.

III. Preservation

A primary goal of the Fales Library is to make non-textual media such as film, audio and video recordings available to researchers. Many of the media holdings associated with the Riot Grrrl Collection, however, will need preservation treatment before they can be made accessible. These efforts aim to ensure the long-term preservation of the library’s media collections, while also enabling researcher access through the creation of access copies.