DC Punk Archive

DC Punk Archive

Documenting D.C. Music in Washingtoniana/Special Collections

In support of the Washingtoniana mission to collect, preserve and provide access to primary source materials that document the history and culture of local D.C., we have established a DC Punk Archive in DC Public Library’s Special Collections. A year after initiating planning and community outreach, we have received several collection donations, secured grant funding to design an online portal for access to collections, and will further engage the public in the project through programming, volunteer training, and an exhibit of highlights from collections we have received so far.

What's New

  • We're continuing the Library Basement Show series on Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. with Priests, Blockhead, and Nox. We will host ongoing local music shows in the basement every other month, sponsored by the DC Public Library Foundation. IF YOUR DC BAND WOULD LIKE TO PLAY, PLEASE LET US KNOW


We have received and continue to accept donations of personal collections that include materials in various formats: Photographs, Published Materials (Books, Zines, Articles), Recordings (Vinyl Records, Tapes, CDs, Live Performances, Oral Histories, Film Footage), Ephemera (Fliers, Posters, Set Lists, Letters, etc.).

Subject content will not be limited to the music itself, but could include anything pertinent to the cultural context, such as houses, venues, festivals, record shops, radio stations and tours. The subject scope is intentionally broad, punk and related local music 1976-present, in order to capture both well-documented and lesser-known stories.

Donations received:
  • Akashic Books - books on D.C. punk
  • Alec Berry - photographs of local bands
  • Elliott Caldwell - flyers and photos
  • John Davis - flyers and records
  • David Ensminger - fanzines
  • Sohrab Habibion - videorecordings of punk shows from mid- to late-80s
  • Carlos Izurieta - flyers and records
  • Leena Jayaswal and Kylos Brannon - film about Dischord Records
  • Casey Jones - Fort Reno memorabilia from 2000s
  • Eddie Janney - Punk ephemera, mostly fliers and posters from 1980s
  • Melissa Klein - LPs and riot grrrl zines
  • Susie McQuary - LPs
  • Katy Otto - flyers and records from Exotic Fever Records
  • James Schneider/Punk the Capital - Source material for forthcoming documentary
  • Ryan Shepard - 7" records, live recordings, and punk fliers and poster from 1990s
  • Cynthia Uleman - fanzines
  • Robbie White - Slickee Boys posters and ephemera
  • Various Donors at Punk Rock Swap Meet - flyers, posters, zines, records, and other ephemera
In addition to bringing in donated archival collections, we are building a library of recordings, at present focused on Punk and Go-Go, but to eventually expand to include other genres and time periods of local music. Find the complete list in the DC Punk Archive Music Library Current Holdings and Wishlist. Suggestions and donations are welcome, and we appreciate everyone who already has contributed.

Programming and Community Engagement

Community involvement in this effort is another priority. We have sought support and advice from the local music community, and we have invited interested individuals to volunteer to train as community archivists to help with the processing and digitization of donated materials. The community archivist program is currently at capacity but we expect to put another call out for volunteers in the spring. We are developing relationships with other area repositories with local music collections to explore avenues of collaboration and resource sharing.

We expect our online local music portal to be an excellent platform for connecting the public with our music collections as well has those of other repositories. Public programming this fall and next summer will raise awareness about the project and engage the public with collected resources and local music.

We kicked off the grant cycle with a month-long series of programs in October:
Library Basement Punk Show
Featuring Joy Buttons, Flamers, Hemlines

Punk Farm Family Fun Day
Music and stories for children and families

Screening of Jem Cohen's film about Fugazi

Punk Rock Swap Meet
Benefit for DC Punk Archive with DJ sets by Brian Baker (Bad Religion, Dag Nasty, Minor Threat), Brendan Canty (Deathfix, Fugazi, Rites of Spring) and John Davis (Title Tracks, Q and not U)

More Than A Witness
Robin Bell discusses the making of his documentary about Positive Force

Preservation and Access

Balancing preservation and access is a high priority for this project. Materials are housed and handled according to best archival practices. Security of the materials is a priority, and as with all archival collections in Washingtoniana, require an appointment to access. Digitization of these collections will allow greater access while minimizing handling of original materials. As collections are digitized they will be added to the Special Collections digital collections DigDC, but we do have grant funding to create an online music portal to allow the community to access local music with associated archival content such as video, images and other documents (expected roll-out summer 2015).

To donate materials to the collection or for more information, contact:

DC Music Archive -- Future Plans

Punk is only one piece of the rich story of D.C. music, and DC Public Library is committed to representing the most complete story possible by establishing a comprehensive DC Music Archive in Washingtoniana.

While we are actively targeting punk collections at the present, we are also currently accepting donations that document other genres, communities, and time periods of D.C. music.  We will expand the ongoing Go-Go collecting project and we are capturing DC Jazz and U Street culture through this oral history project.

Rock music that preceded and followed the heyday of Punk; R&B, Funk and Hip Hop that influenced (was influenced by) Go-Go; the thriving early Bluegrass and Country scene--all of these are important elements that make D.C. a unique and vibrant center for local music and culture, and all will have a home at the library. As we expand out collecting focus we will do so in collaboration and cooperation with other repositories of D.C. music collections.

Related Collections

University of Maryland Special Collections in the Performing Arts

As a collaboration between the two libraries, we will scan any zines that accompany donations to the DC Punk Archive in Washingtoniana and share them with UMD to help fill gaps in their D.C. Punk and Indie Fanzine Collection, 1979-2012 (unless the donor prefers to donate original zines to UMD). 

George Washington University

The university plans to launch a D.C. Vernacular Music Archive in the fall of 2014, to support academic research in ethnomusicology and as a repository for student project raw materials. As we develop our interactive online local music portal, we will collaborate with these and other institutions to connect all digitized local music resources through one platform.

Special Thanks

Special thanks go to:
  • James Schneider, who helped catalyze this project by reaching out to collaborate with the library on preservation of D.C. punk materials encountered during the making of the documentary Punk the Capital
  • Music community members who have generously offered advice and assistance to the project
  • The many who have already offered donations of collections and who have volunteer to assist the project.
This project has been awarded grant funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

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