The Big Interview: Curator of The Hyman Archive, James Hyman

James Hyman has been collecting “popular culture in print” for over 25 years, with The Hyman Archive now standing at over 90,000 individual issues dating back to 1910. isubscribe paid the archive a visit to chat to its dedicated curator about how this incredible creation came about…

isubscribe love magazines! So when we heard about the Hyman Archive, we had to pay a visit, not least because James Hyman is the Guinness Record Winning owner of the world’s largest collection of magazines!

During our fascinating visit, isubscribe poured over yellow stacks of National Geographic, old copies of NME in newspaper print format and a collection of the first copies of Tatler in blue binding…as well as the debut issue of Playboy.

Where does your passion for magazines come from?

My passion comes from a pre-internet era where magazines were our internet, then, the best place to be kept abreast of everything in the wonderful wide world of popular culture.  Just like the internet now, I would spend hours getting lost in the rich content, learning about music, film, TV, technology, counter-culture and celebrity.   That passion hasn't changed, it's just evolved in that I also read a lot digitally and collect more voraciously!

How many magazines do you estimate in your collection, where are most of them from?

As I write this on 16 August 2016, there are 87,867 magazines in the collection, not counting any duplicates / triplicates.  If I included those plus comics, you're looking at easily over 100,000.  Most of them are from the UK (about 55%), USA (about 30%) and rest of the world (15%).  Nearly half have come from donations, the bulk after a BBC Radio 4 appearance in February this year.

Do you have a particular allegiance to a certain magazine/issue?

My taste has changed over the years, as a teenager it was Smash Hits, comics and Jocks, during my time working at MTV, I got into many more titles as I started off as a researcher writing scripts for the VJs, so publications like The Face, Rolling Stone, Q, Echoes and Empire were regular reads.

When I moved into producing club / dance shows for MTV, titles like Mixmag, MUZIK, NME / Melody Maker were part of the new regime.  Over the years, I've formed an allegiance to many in the classy Conde Nast range like Vanity Fair, Wired & the New Yorker, primarily for the quality of long-form articles and sharp journalism.  There's also mags like Record Collector, The Wire I subscribe to and love for the pulse of their take on music as well as one of my firm favourites, Fortean Times, a superb mag that covers the world of strange phenomena brilliantly.

How do you see the future of the print magazine, given the digital presence?

I think the future's very bright for print when compared with digital, both can exist hand in hand, each have their strengths & weaknesses.  People thought cinema would kill theatre, TV & Video would kill cinema, internet would kill TV & Radio, newspapers would kill Radio, well, all those mediums are still thriving and surviving. In terms of print, many people prefer the tactile experience of a physical object compared to staring at a bright screen and only last week Private Eye was proud to announce that its circulation of 230,000 per fortnight was its highest since 1986.  

How do you see the future of the Hyman Archive?

The dream vision for the Hyman Archive is for the collection to be preserved digitally allowing access to the history of magazine content from the 1800s to present day. Allowing access to such an important cultural resource is essential.  I'm also interested in a physical space / museum where people can come to read from "The world's largest collection of magazines", socialise and interact with popular culture talks / events.  

We're looking at publishing books, a magazine continuing our relationship with providing material for exhibitions and research requests from the creative industries and academia.    

If anyone wishes to donate magazines to assist the preservation and digitisation of the Hyman Archive, please contact via

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