Spotlight on Open Doors

Banner by Erin of an OTW logo beamed by a spotlight over the words Open Doors

Established in 2008, the Open Doors committee’s mission is archiving and preserving fanworks for the future. Communications staffer Angela talked with the Open Doors chair, FishieMishie to learn more.

Q: Tell me about Open Doors’ projects?

FishieMishie: The committee’s projects are split into digital and physical preservation. The digital side is what drove the creation of the committee, and a large part of our work is still preserving fanwork archives (that might be lost due to lack of time, interest, or resources on the part of the mods) by importing them to the Archive of Our Own. Giving creators the ability to manage their own works reduces the time requirements on the mods (at least, in the case of some older archives where edits to works need to be done by an admin), and using the Archive also removes the need to worry about technical upkeep, or server and hosting costs.

The physical preservation side of our work is the Fan Culture Preservation Project: a partnership we established with the Special Collections department at the University of Iowa in 2009. While we mostly receive zine donations, we accept a wide variety of fan creations such as fan art and crafts, song and fan vids burned on DVDs (or recorded on VHS), t-shirts, and memorabilia from past fan cons: schedule books, buttons, badges, etc. I think it’s wonderful to help fans donate these pieces of history to the Fanzine Archives to be cataloged and cared for.

Q: How did Open Doors become involved with the University of Iowa?

FishieMishie: Francesca Coppa put together the partnership between the OTW and the University of Iowa in early 2009. Ming Wathne’s Fanzine Archives collection was the impetus, trying to find a permanent home for all those zines. The University of Iowa’s Special Collections department had already curated fandom-related collections, are very respectful of fans and fanworks, and are willing to help offset shipping costs for qualifying donations. Also, UI is based in the same city Captain Kirk was born, but that’s just fun. 😉

Q: What is your oldest collection?

FishieMishie: Our first collection of physical fanworks was Ming Wathne’s collection. Foresmutter’s Project was the first digital preservation in 2008. Open Doors created a mirror of the site on a subdomain of the Open Doors website until the content could be integrated onto the AO3 (since this was before the AO3 opened).

Q: What is Missed the Saturday Dance? Why is it different?

FishieMishie: Missed the Saturday Dance is a multimedia fanwork created by Zoetrope. It’s a fanwork that combines images, video, audio, as well as text to tell a story: specifically, a Stargate Atlantis, McKay/Sheppard World War II AU story. While the different components could be imported to the AO3, it would lose that feeling of integration, as we wouldn’t be able to replicate the embedded image links, and the Archive would introduce distractions to the insular story.

Q: Are international fannish collections welcome?

FishieMishie: Yes! we are currently migrating German Speaking Slashers, a multifandom slash archive. Approximately 200 stories of 973 have been imported so far.

Q: What should I do if I know about an awesome online archive that has disappeared?

FishieMishie: Let the mod know that they can contact Open Doors, or email the committee to let us know so that we can introduce ourselves.

Q: What if I went to a fannish event (conventions, large group meetings, etc.) 20 years ago and have event materials (flyers, event programs, etc)? Should I donate them to the project?

FishieMishie: Please do! While the majority of donations have been zines, many different items qualify for the collection. If anyone is curious about what is current in the collections, an index of the OTW General Collection,and the other fandom-related collections can be read on the University of Iowa’s website–if Open Doors facilitated the donation, the OTW is mentioned in the “Acquisition” section. Just email the Open Doors committee with more information about your materials, and whether or not you have any financial or logistical concerns (e.g., getting to the post office) about making a donation.

Because of Open Doors, future fans will able to learn about origins of fandom media. Check out the Open Doors’ website or read more about their activities on OTW News.