Digitizing Fanzines on J.R.R. Tolkien
At Marquette University, our library has the privilege of housing the original Tolkien manuscripts for the entirety of his Lord of the Rings epics. As such, we feel a deep tie to our devotion to the subject, and have multiple classes and seminars highlighting the history and world that Tolkien created with his own hands. Even after discussing the movies and the literature, one of the largest chunks of this world remains: the fan base.
The fans of Tolkien’s LotR fantasy are what keep its popularity alive to this day. With conventions that occur multiple times a year, the LotR franchise has one of the most devoted and active fan bases in the world. So much so that they used to have monthly magazines, called fanzines or zines for short, developed by multiple publishers up until the late 1990's. Different zines with different publishing's have made it to our library’s own database so we could look further into understanding the lore of Tolkien’s world and the drive of the fans that keep the craze alive.
The last semester, I’ve worked side by side with the library staff to not only help to understand these fan-made products, but to preserve such so that they are not lost to the tides of time. Using Adobe Acrobat, their PDF reader and scanner, I have the ability to convert a whole page of one of these fanzines using the “Recognize Text” function and export it into a text file, allowing the page to be looked into further with clarity. Seeing as how these pages are 30–40 years old or older, many of them are either faded or handwritten, meaning Acrobat is unable to OCR everything, but since it automatically opens whatever it scans into a word document, I’m able to change any errors in translation and scanning. With the state of some pages, it’s sometimes more time efficient for me to transpose some the pages by hand, because at the end of the day, nothing is easier to use than the human eye.
With the help of Acrobat, our school has been able to help preserve and foster future scholarship upon beautiful literature of an era, literature of all kinds that demonstrate how just one piece of writing can grow into a massive cultural phenomena that lasts for decades. Through the digitization of the Tolkien fandom’s early fanzines, and the creation of a research database for them, the world Tolkien created, the world that inspired so many people, will forever be preserved at Marquette University.