Our Open Doors are now opening wide to at-risk archives! The first generation mass archive importer is now ready for testing: this importer will allow us to import archives built on the popular ‘Automated Archive’ software into the Archive of Our Own. Many archives were built with this software over the last 15 years and some are now slowly sinking into the sea: four years ago, one of the things that brought the initial wave of fans together to work on the OTW was the desire to save these archives from extinction. We’re really excited to have finally developed the infrastructure and functionality needed to move this work forward.
Here at the OTW, we love the plurality of fandom! There are many individual fannish archives with their own unique flavour and community, and we hope this will always continue. However, fannish archives disappear for a whole host of reasons: sometimes maintainers move on to pastures new, or real life concerns mean they can no longer support the archive. Sometimes a database becomes corrupted through simple use, and the archivist doesn’t have the resources (or the technical knowledge) to fix it. Sometimes the money for servers and bandwidth runs out. Sometimes copyright holders launch legal challenges which the maintainers are unable or unwilling to act against. Often it is a combination of all of these things. When archives run into difficulties, they often disappear entirely, taking with them the wonderful creative works created by the fans who use them. Our Open Doors initiative aims to preserve these pieces of fannish history by allowing archivists to import their at-risk archives into the Archive of Our Own.
Our test case for the importer will be the Smallville Slash Archive, which was hosted by fannish legend Minotaur. Minotaur sadly passed away in 2009, and his fannish executors approached us to see whether we would be able to help ensure the site he supported did not disappear with him. They’ve waited patiently: we’re thrilled to finally be able to give them the backup they need.
Imported archives will be set up as collections on the Archive of Our Own. This means that they will have their own profile page and header (if desired by the maintainer), and all works imported will be identified as part of that collection. Collections can be browsed independently of the main Archive, and works in collections are also accessible via the main Archive. If you have work on an archive which is scheduled for import, or you are just generally interested in how this will work, check out the Open Doors FAQ.
The SSA will be imported next week, on Sunday 3rd March! Our second test case will be the Yuletide archive, one of the newest and most complex iterations of the Automated Archive code. Once we’ve done these two archives and figured out any bugs, we’ll be looking to import more at-risk archives: if you have an archive that uses the Automated Archive software and want to transfer it to the AO3 or to back it up in the AO3, please contact Open Doors! (You can continue to moderate or run your archive, which will be set up within AO3 as its own collection. Find out more at our short guide to Open Doors imports and the Open Doors FAQ.)
Our next step will be to try to build a version of this archive importer that works with e-fiction archives, which are also database-backed. If you are a coder who is familiar with e-fiction archives and wants to collaborate on customizing our next importer, please contact Volunteers and Recruiting: please mention specifically your e-fiction experience!