DC Punk Archive

Documenting D.C. Music in Washingtoniana/Special Collections

Punk Archives

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 in October with programming, volunteer training, and an exhibit of highlights from collections we have received so far.

What's New

  • We're kicking off programming for the DC Punk Archive with a punk show in the MLK Library basement, Oct. 2 at 6 p.m., with Joy Buttons, Flamers and Hemlines. Check here for updates about other programs including punk documentary screenings at Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library and a swap meet event at the Warehouse Theater Oct. 28.
  • Many new items have recently joined our collection of recordings. Find the complete list in the DC Punk Archive Music Library Current Holdings and Wishlist.


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.

Collections formed so far:
  • Akashic Books Book Collection
  • Alec Barry Photograph Collection - photographs of local bands
  • Casey Jones Collection - Fort Reno memorabilia from 2000s
  • Eddie Janney Collection - Punk ephemera, mostly fliers and posters from 1980s
  • James Schneider/Punk the Capital Collection - Source material for forthcoming documentary
  • Ryan Shepard Collection - Punk ephemera, mostly fliers and poster from 1990s
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. 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'll kick off programming with a punk show in the MLK Library basement, Oct. 2 6:30 p.m. with Joy Buttons, Flamers and Hemlines.

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 DC 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.

You can also get an overview of the DC Punk Archive, featuring Fugazi, Bad Brains and more:

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