April Membership Drive: Preserving Endangered Fanworks

When people talk about OTW’s Open Doors committee, it’s often about their efforts to sustain and preserve fansites. These can be put at risk by any number of things. Open Doors does the slow, careful work of importing other fan archives onto AO3 so the works they hold will not be lost to future fans.

But Open Doors has another project which people may not know about: the Fan Culture Preservation Project (FCPP). FCPP is a joint venture with the University of Iowa to archive physical items from fan history such as ‘zines, flyers, fanvids, t-shirts and other fan-made ephemera.

Although part of the University’s Special Collections, the FCPP is open to the public. Any fan who visits the library can view the collections without needing special permission. All you need is a desire to learn more about the history of fan culture, a willingness to follow the library’s rules, and some time to spend curled up in the library.

The library hosts a collection named for the OTW, as well as some collections named after individual fans. Since the FCPP started in 2009, eight named collections have been processed, ranging from hundreds to thousands of items each.

The OTW’s 2012 Community Survey gave us a lot of great feedback. One repeated point was that fans liked how something important to them, their fandom activity, was being seen as legitimate and valuable because of the OTW’s work. They felt that the OTW’s language and approach to fan activities helped them to speak to non-fannish friends and family about fandom in an easier way. The FCPP is one of the many ways the OTW works to archive and legitimize fannish practices.

Through the work of the OTW and fans who have long worked to preserve fannish history, archivists at academic libraries have started looking at the best ways to conserve fan collections. These types of archives are important not only to fans, but to the growing number of academics who use them in their work. It is through projects like this that Texas A&M University archivist Jeremy Brett is presenting a paper entitled “Good Practices and Recommendations for Archivists Working with Fannish Materials” at the upcoming Eaton Science Fiction Conference. His talk is part of a larger session on “Archives, Archaeology, [and] Alternate History.”

Our OTW volunteers love fandom and spend their time and effort helping to enrich and maintain it. Open Doors’ work with the FCPP gathers collections that have been curated by dedicated fans, sometimes for decades. They give them as a gift to fandom by keeping them safe and open for both present and future fans. The archives help to show the passion and creativity of fans and the range of innovative and inspired works we have created.

Help support these ongoing efforts — please donate today.