By Alyssa Schnugg
Having a collection of more than 35,000 first-edition magazines, Samir Husni admits he may have a problem – space.
“I can’t say it’s an addiction,” he said, pausing for a moment. “OK. It is an addiction.”
However, it’s an addiction with an end goal, Husni said.
“I want to donate my collection, preferably to the University (of Mississippi) to create a magazine museum, where people can come and feel them in their hands. We can digitize all the covers but it’s just not the same.”
Husni, known to most as “Mr. Magazine™,” started collecting magazines when he was a child growing up in Lebanon.
“Other kids saved their allowance to buy a coke or cake,” he said. “I saved to buy magazines.”
Love at First Read
The first magazine Husni purchased was a Superman comic book. In high school, he realized he could never afford to buy every magazine printed so his focus turned to collecting mostly first editions.
“To me, the history of the pop culture of the United States and glimpses of the rest of the world are captured in those magazines,” he said.
His hobby eventually turned into what would become his career.
In 1978, he received a scholarship to attend the University of North Texas where he earned his master’s degree in journalism. He left his magazine collection in Lebanon when he came to the states. Since then, his collection has followed him wherever he lived.
After arriving in Texas, he went to his first American book store, aptly named Reader’s World.
“The display of magazines went on and on, all along the walls,” he said. “You talk about a kid in a candy store. It was wild.”
After graduating from UNT, he moved to Missouri in 1981 and earned his Ph.D in journalism at the University of Missouri in 1983. He decided to do his dissertation on the success and failures of magazines in America.
“It’s a big segment of American media, but people either focused on newspapers or television,” he said. “No one studied magazines.”
In 1984, he moved to Oxford and joined the faculty at the University of Mississippi where he founded the Magazine Innovation Center in the School of Journalism and New Media.
“My collection came with me, which led to fancy debates with my wife,” he said, smiling.
A Forever Home
Now spanning four, 20×12 storage units and filling his offices at the university and in the attic of Farley Hall, Husni said plans to create a magazine museum have become a priority.
“I would like them to be here at the university,” he said. “But if not, I will try to raise the money to build one. There are museums for newspapers, advertisements – the only missing part is a museum for magazines. Magazines are not a passing moment like on television. Whether I’m losing myself in a magazine from 1919 or 2019, it’s a moment I can always come back to.”
His collection includes first-edition magazines that go back to the late 1800s through present day.
“It is the magazine that told people about brands,” he said. “You see what the trends were and how the county was acting and reacting to current events.”
Today, Husni buys most of his first editions through the internet on sites like eBay.
“I’ve spent a lot of money,” he said. “I still feel on cloud nine when I get a new first edition.”
A Testament to UM
Known as the leading expert in magazine publishing, Husni will be a guest speaker at the 2019 MPA: Association of Magazine Media Conference on Feb. 5 in New York City.
Past speakers include Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Ron Howard. This year, Husni will join Martha Stewart and Henry Winkle as a guest speaker, announcing the 2018 Magazine of the Year.
Celebrating its 100th year, Husni will also show a special presentation about magazine advertisements from 1919.
He is the only speaker at the conference with a university affiliation, namely as an academician.
“Most are editors or CEOs of magazines,” he said. “I’m the only one in academia. That’s a tribute to what we are doing here at the university.”
Until Husni can find a forever home for his magazines in a museum, he will continue to scour the internet for first editions and cherish each one with the dream one day, he can share them with the world.
“Anything that says Vol. 1, No. 1 becomes my baby,” he said. “Like being a parent, you love all your babies and don’t differentiate between them.”