Pop Heritage Lab

A new approach to the online exploration and curation of Belgian mass-market print heritage

Popular Heritage Lost and Found

It is a common misunderstanding that since mass media products are omnipresent and published in high numbers, there is no need to pay special attention to their preservation. Yet in fact, older samples of popular print culture are often as endangered as precious manuscripts. Print popular culture is typically not meant to last: mass-market products are made at a fast churning-out rate and printed at low costs, distributed and consumed in just as rapid moments of attention. Their temporality is one of series and next instalments more than one of timelessness and permanence. Situated at the lower end of cultural hierarchies, they have regularly been neglected, overlooked, when not simply discarded; their archives have frequently disappeared or were scattered by their makers and few libraries have actively elaborated curatorial strategies for this kind of mass culture. Popular print culture thus makes for a ‘hidden heritage’, demanding new strategies to facilitate its preservation, access and study.

The Pop Heritage Lab aims to disclose this non-canonical and largely forgotten heritage of twentieth-century popular print culture in the rich but as yet unexplored KBR collections. They can be found in a diversity of formats, forms, and materials: pulp and pocket books, illustrated magazines, comics, photo novels, drawn novels, fanzines, serialized fiction, and more. While extremely diverse, this popular heritage shares a dense combination of text and image and a cultural-industrial framework: mass production, serialization, intermediality, and transmedia circulation are key features of this popular print heritage. Such productions are best approached not only as material objects but as networks of cultural practices, hence broadening the classical notion of book heritage and taking into account forms of interaction, reuse, and appropriation. The overall goal of this project is to develop a strategy for better preservation, access and deeper study of this kind of popular heritage.   

Project goals

The Pop Heritage Lab aims:

  • to enlarge the KBR holdings to non-canonical publications, enhancing knowledge of the current state of its collections. By developing an encompassing approach to mass-market print culture, the lab supports new strategies to improve the preservation of this heritage.
  • to enhance the discoverability of this hidden heritage by improving cataloguing descriptions, enriching metadata, supporting digitization, making these collections more accessible for researchers and users.
  • to contribute to the valorization of popular print culture in Belgium, strengthening the Library’s role in documenting Belgian production and stimulating new research approaches to this overlooked part of its national heritage.

Project Lead

Benoît Crucifix, KBR & KU Leuven – orabvg.pehpvsvk@xoe.or


The POPHeritage project is financed by the Belgian Science Policy Office as part of the FED-tWIN programme, and is based on a long-term cooperation between KBR and the Cultural Studies research group at KU Leuven, following up on the previous projects PHOTO-LIT and Artpresse.

Follow-up committee

  • Jan Baetens, KU Leuven
  • Fred Truyen, KU Leuven
  • Sophie Vandepontseele, KBR