A somewhat unusual audience crowded the fourth floor lobby of the Leatherby Libraries Saturday evening, chatting, enjoying refreshments on the terrace, and, most importantly, taking turns making their way through the Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections & Archives. The crowd, made up mostly of current and former “scenesters” (people associated with a particular scene – in this case, the punk rock scene), was here to see the newest exhibition in the space, “Kids of the Black Hole: The First Two Decades of Punk in Orange County.” Assembled by curators Rand Boyd and Wendy Gonaver, both from Special Collections & Archives, using material on loan from Jay Bauman, the exhibit spotlights the visual culture of O.C. punk musicians, artists, and fans from the 1970s to 1990s. The regional aesthetics and politics of punk are explored through a unique collection of flyers, fanzines, clothing, album art, and memorabilia.
Jay Bauman entered the punk scene in high school in the late 1970s, in Orange, CA. After college, he sold and gave away his albums, but after finding a large collection of the albums he’d held dear at a garage sale years later, he became an avid collector of memorabilia. “I started buying albums, and I’d open these albums and find flyers,” he told the audience at the exhibit reception on August 17th. His collection quickly grew, and the albums, flyers, fanzines, and clothes that make up the current exhibition only represent a small portion of that collection.
The exhibit is made up of three core sections: The Bands, The Clubs, and The Fans. The Bands, of course, focuses on the artists of the Orange County punk scene, including Social Distortion, The Crowd, Eddie and the Subtitles, and Pig Children. As part of this section of the exhibit, visitors can scan QR codes to hear or see performances by some of these groups. In the section The Clubs, different Orange County venues are highlighted, including the Cuckoo’s Nest – we even feature the “E” from the club’s sign, taken home by one devoted fan years ago. Finally, The Fans celebrates all of the fans – new and old – who are devoted to the punk scene.
Wendy Gonaver, who co-curated the exhibit, was interviewed about the exhibit by KPCC the morning after the exhibit reception. Among other things, she talked about the ways in which the memorabilia contained in this exhibit, from the shirts to the tickets, is what really sets apart an academic library like the Leatherby Libraries and the Frank Mt. Pleasant Library in particular. You can listen to the interview here (starting around the two-minute mark).