Connecting Incarcerated People to Special Collections

Artwork by Meg Crocker Birminham.

The beginning of DePaul’s school year offers an opportunity to reflect on access to learning and education. Traditional academic programs and classrooms are not available to everyone in society, particularly those in jails and prisons. Through mailed letters and correspondence with incarcerated people, DePaul University Special Collections and Archives receives a glimpse of this reality.

In 2008, activist Anthony Rayson donated his zine collection to DePaul. “Zines,” short for magazines or fanzines, are commonly self-produced, low-budget publications. The Anthony Rayson zine collection contains prisoner-focused zines and artwork, created by incarcerated people, activists, and Rayson himself. The collection features over two thousand items related to numerous topics such as anti-racism, feminism, prisoner resources, poetry, history, philosophy, and the prison industrial complex. Following Rayson’s practice of mailing free copies of zines to incarcerated people upon request, DePaul Special Collections and Archives provides a parallel, complimentary service.

Artwork by Todd (Hyung-Rae) Tarselli.

Nearly all of DePaul SPCA’s prisoner interactions occur through the mail. Letters from incarcerated people often describe a lack of educational opportunities, long waiting lists for classes, and limited reading materials. In response to these challenges, prisoners tell us that they use the Anthony Rayson zine collection for self-education and frequently reference “group study” situations where prisoners share and discuss reading materials.

DePaul Special Collections and Archives is proud to assist incarcerated people in their pursuit of education, learning, and leisure. This service also aligns with the Library’s Mission, Vision, and Values, supporting community engagement, inclusion, and lifelong learning.

To learn more about the Anthony Rayson zine collection and other zine collections at DePaul, visit Special Collections and Archives in room 314 of the John T. Richardson Library or contact us at archives@depaul.edu.

One Reply to “Connecting Incarcerated People to Special Collections”

  1. Nice to see the entry about the prisoner zine collection. We weren’t sure how it would be used when it came to us, but we knew somehow, it would be. Thanks!

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