The people at Vogue announced today that they’re launching an online version of their storied archive — every issue from 1892 to today, right at your fingertips on the Internet. Which would be absolutely fantastic if it didn’t cost an arm and a leg to use.
The Vogue Archive will give users a way to look back at literal fashion history, and to see right before their eyes have changed from decade to decade — and even issue to issue. It even includes all of the ads that the magazine has run in its 119 years. You can sort images by designer or even color and garment type, and all of the articles are laid out for you to read.
It’s a pretty powerful resource, and it comes as a pretty powerful cost — which is something we expected. Private libraries are private for a reason. The London Library, the largest independent lending library in the world, has membership dues of about $680 a year. But it also has an actual building to maintain and loans real books to real people, whereas the Vogue Archive is probably just a couple of servers hooked up in Delaware.
So when we tried to sign up for an individual membership, we thought it would maybe cost a few hundred dollars. And we were wrong. On the secure payment page, we were greeted with the notification that “Individual access to the Vogue Archive is $1,575 for a whole year.” Corporation memberships probably aren’t cheaper — when we tried to take a look at how much they cost, we were informed we’d be contacted by someone from the Worth Global Style Network, a trend forecasting agency that partnered with Vogue on the archive. Basically, the corporate rate is price upon request.
Still, not everyone has to pay — magazine subscribers will get access to a limited version of the archive in 2012, and students and some libraries will be able to browse through it via ProQuest, a digital research aid. Other than editorial staffs at competing magazines, we’re having trouble picturing the person who actually needs to access 120 years of Vogue often enough to justify spending that much money on it, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe the “perfectly extravagant” price tag is targeted at people who either really need Vogue in their lives or are really, really crazy.
Anyway, if you’re not a college student or a subscriber to Vogue, you’d better befriend one. Otherwise, you’re probably not going to see one page of this archive.