State Library Victoria, and specifically the History of the Book and Arts Collections here, lost a rare treasure earlier this month. On the night of Sunday 8th December 2019, volunteer zines collection cataloguer Charmaine Matyson passed away at the age of 33.

They first approached us in 2013 to see about offering their time to the description of the ever-growing collection of handmade independent publications that have been purchased by us since 1998. Since then, they have become the most prolific volunteer with this collection that we have yet seen, cataloguing well over 4000 zines. If you have searched for zines in our catalogue, there’s a fair chance you’ve seen their work, which shone especially brightly when it came to the analysis of topics and/or genres that featured in or were a part of the make-up of a zine.

Cataloguing was always a delight for them, and they regularly paused to soak up the unique aspects of many of the zines they were describing. They were also a regular at many of the local zine community events, especially the annual Festival of the Photocopier, where-in they would slowly scan over every table they stopped at to take in all the smaller details of the treasures in front of them.

They also volunteered their time and significant abilities in other areas, such as the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, Second Chance Animal Rescue, and the Homecooked Comics Festival, to name but a few. Although their health stopped them from engaging with and participating in so many of what they wanted to, they were there when they could be.

I was also privileged to know them as a close friend, which makes their death especially hard for me to engage with. Their keen interest in metal, grindcore, and noise music meant that they were often right up the front at so many of the same gigs I attended and performed in locally. They were also a massive cat person, and regularly took care of the cats at my home, quickly becoming like family to them and us (the first time they saw the older one – a ginger mainecoon named Pyewacket – they burst into tears at how handsome he was).

One of the most memorable things about Charmaine was the elaborate tattoos covering most of their body. Memento mori, especially the kind popular around the middle ages, was a common theme, showing how openly they came to terms with the likeliness of their life being cut far shorter than that of their peers. They also utilised tattooing as a way of claiming ownership of and agency in a body that regularly brought them so much grief – an approach shared by many others dealing with chronic health problems. For this, and many other things, not least their kindness and generosity of spirit, they will not be forgotten by so many people.

This article has 4 comments

  1. Thank you so much John for your tribute to our beautiful Charmaine.

  2. Well said John. A very sad loss and a lovely tribute.

  3. Beautiful tribute John

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