October Membership Drive: Preserving Fannish History

The Fan Culture Preservation Project is facilitated by the Open Doors committee of the OTW. The project helps preserve the printed history of fandom by assisting fans in donating their zine collections to the Fanzine Archives, located in the University of Iowa Special Collections. While FCPP has had a historical emphasis on print zines, it is by no means a limiting factor. Fan-created convention programs, fan art, buttons, zine flyers, songvids, scrapbooks, t-shirts, convention badges, circuit stories, calendars, fan crafts, and photos or video recordings of fannish conventions are all welcome and desired.

Open Doors began transferring materials to University of Iowa Special Collections in early 2009. The first major donation was the Fanzine Archives, a collection of over 3,000 classic zines previously housed in Santa Barbara, CA. Open Doors was able to help retiring archivist Ming Wathne save and protect this valuable collection. Since that time, FCPP has helped many other longtime fans donate their collections to the library.

In the past 5 years, Open Doors has seen the University of Iowa Fanzine Archives grow exponentially. There are now 9 individually named collections of fanzines, fan art, and fanvids at the Fanzine Archives, in addition to the overall OTW collection which allows fans to donate their zines anonymously. That works out to an estimated 286 linear feet, or roughly 6,000 individual items! An additional 800 items await cataloging, and Open Doors is working with a number of donors to secure even more fan collections.

The preservation efforts have already had an impact throughout fandom. In 2011, a Star Trek fan made a field trip to the Special Collections to see the fanzines and to learn more about her fandom’s history. In addition, the Fanzine Archives have supplied fans and volunteer editors thousands of tables of contents, zine covers, and other fanzine images, many of which have been included in Fanlore wiki articles.

Open Doors has also supported other grassroots fandom history preservation projects. For example, in 2012, the Media Fandom Oral History Project was initiated by two fans who travel to fan conventions and record fan memories. These digital recordings have also found a home in the University of Iowa Special Collections. The FCPP hopes to be able to encourage similar grassroots preservation efforts in future years.

In all, the FCPP has enabled fans to actively participate in preserving fandom history, whether by donating their zines, vids, and fan art or by recording their fandom memories for future generations of fans. Like messages in a bottle, we have no idea who will be waiting to hear from us down the road, but we look forward to “meeting” them through the FCPP.

Learn more about the collections at the Open Doors website, and help support future preservation efforts by becoming an OTW member.