University of Iowa Fanzine Archives

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Are you looking for Ming Wathne's Fanzine Archives?
Name: University of Iowa, Special Collections, Fanzine Archives
Date(s): ?-present
Profit/Nonprofit: non-profit
Country based in: USA
Focus: fandom, fanzines
External Links: Special Collections Department of the University of Iowa Libraries, Fandom Resources, Finding Aids, Twitter
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
outside University of Iowa Library which houses the Special Collections Fanzine Archives
the reading room

The University of Iowa maintains a Special Collection focused on media fanzine fandom.[1] It is often referred to as the Fanzine Archives as a large portion of the collection contains materials from Ming Wathne's original Fanzine Archives. However, the collection consists of donations from multiple fans, including Sandy Herrold, Celeste Hotaling-Lyons, Morgan Dawn, Susan Hill, Debbie Hoover, Marian Mendez, Laura Leach, and Lynda Mendoza. The collection also houses Rusty Hevelin's collection.

The Special Collections Department is currently involved in a major cooperative effort with the OTW's Fan Culture Preservation Project to receive donations of fanzines. Fans can donate their zines under either their real name or pseudonym. Fans wishing to make anonymous donations can do so by becoming part of the OTW fanzine collection.[2]

In addition to fanzines, the collection contains sample songvids on DVD and a small amount of fan art.

"Fandom represents an important American (and, indeed, international) cultural phenomenon, one that encompasses the beliefs, concerns, dreams and fantasies of a culturally influential and distinct social community. Archiving the productions of fan culture - zines, convention materials, literary productions such as stories of fan fiction, and so on - means the preservation of the historical record of this subculture and its adherents. Special Collections at the University of Iowa is committed to documenting the history and development of fandom and fannish communities."[3]


The University began collecting general science fiction fanzines in 2004, but the first large donation of media fan fiction fanzines was made in 2008 by Sandy Herrold.[4] Sandy had been searching for a suitable home for her Blake's 7 zine collection and researched several facilities before selecting the University of Iowa. When the time came for Ming's collection to be rehomed, the OTW followed suit and helped place her Fanzine Archives into the Special Collections.

In June 2009 the OTW announced a joint project with the University, the Fan Culture Preservation Project, to facilitate the donation of media fanzines.[5] Donations are ongoing.


Fandoms currently represented in the archives: almost every TV and movie based fandom, along with a small amount of literary based fan fiction such as Sherlock Holmes and Tolkien. Media based fandoms range from the A-Team to Beauty and the Beast to Xena. All genres are represented:gen, het, slash, and a small amount of RPS fiction. There is a heavy focus on both Star Wars and Star Trek fandom. In 2010, Morgan Dawn contributed her Professionals slash Circuit Library collection. She also contributed donated songvids DVDs from multiple vidders along with a small amount of fan art.

See: Fandom Related Collections.

See also: Fan Culture Preservation Project Collections.


Visiting in Person

The Fandom Collection is open to both the general public and researchers at Special Collection reading room. Materials cannot be loaned via the Inter-Library loan program nor can they be checked out.

The Collection seeks to preserve both the form of the items as well as the content; standard Special Collections precautions and access restrictions are in place to ensure the preservation of the materials. As such, care is taken with the handling of all items. Cell phones, tablets and laptops are allowed for note taking and photographic copying within the Reading Room. Pens and notepads are not allowed, but pencils and note paper are available. Purses, bags and coats also are not allowed within the reading area, but there are small-ish lockers for storage. To make the best use of your time, schedule your visit at least a few days in advance. First browse or search the on-line catalog for items of interest. Include that list in your request to visit, along with the day(s) and time of your visit. That way, the items of interest are ready for you when you arrive.

Once you arrive at the Reading Room and have placed any personal items in a locker, an assistant will escort you to your assigned table and bring you your pre-requested items. A workstation is available within the Reading Room for additional searches of the on-line catalog.

Making a Request

Not able to visit the Library in person or interested in a story or article from a bound or fragile publication? Make an Access and Reproduction request; a limited number of copies can be made and mailed for a small fee. Once the Conservation Department receives the request, it will assess if the publication can be imaged without damaging the original. If they believe it can, the publication will be sent to digital preservation for imaging into a TIF file. If not, your request will be declined. There is a fee for this service, covering the Library's labor costs. Another and perhaps more cost effective option, especially if you cannot visit the Library, is to hire a local grad student to photograph for you the publication of interest. Email the Special Collection for more information.

None of the materials are currently available in digital format, however according to the Fan Culture Preservation Project FAQ: "OTW and Iowa will be exploring ways to digitize some of these materials, so that fans who want to see them will have access, even if they can't get to Iowa. We hope to reach many of the authors of these stories to get their permission to share their work more widely online."[6]

Due to early fandom's usage of full legal names on many of the fanzines, the Special Collection currently lists only zine titles in its online finding aids.

Collection Taxonomy

Whether making a request for a visit in person or to request a reproduction, the following information is needed to help ensure the right item is retrieved.

  • MsC number - the 4-digit number corresponding to the named collection
  • Box number - which box within the named collection
  • Item name - title or description of the publicaton, art work or whatever is being requested.


In 2015, the collection began digitizing fanzines[7]

The library’s digitization efforts are led by Digital Project Librarian Laura Hampton. She’s just a few weeks into the first leg of the project, digitizing some 10,000 titles from the collection of Rusty Hevelin, a collector and genre aficionado whose collection came to the library in 2012. You can follow along with Hampton’s work on the Hevelin Collection tumblr.
Once the titles are digitized, they’ll become the basis of a searchable database that UI is counting on volunteers to develop through crowdsourced transcription, a method that has proven successful for other similar projects under the auspices of UI Libraries’ DIYHistory project.

Peter Balestrieri is the Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections for UI Libraries

That database, Balestrieri hopes, will be a valuable resource for the growing number of scholars interested in studying not just science fiction, but the way that fans interact with the genre and how those interactions have evolved over time.
“These fandoms are increasingly impossible to ignore,” said Balestrieri “And the move to study them seriously grows with every PhD candidate that gains permission to write her dissertation on zombies.”

Fandom Reaction

The majority of media fandom is supportive of the concept of archiving fanzines and supports the Special Collections:

I've been talking about this with a bunch of people on Zinelist, and just realized I never left a comment here to say how utterly cool I think this project is. I feel like I've been watching our history dribble away between our collective fingers for years, and finally we have a bucket underneath to catch it. This is just fantastic. Thank you for getting this set up! \o/"[8]

A few fans (especially zine publishers and contributors) have raised objections:

I just heard about this, and really, I don't want my fanzines included in any way. I do them for fun and sharing with friends and like minded fans, I don't want them photocopied and sent to "researchers" and "students." I keep in print those I want to keep available, and some have purposefully have been taken out of print and allowed to quietly fade away. If I wanted them made public and accessible, I'd have done it. Just because someone got their hands on one of my books through whatever source, and it could have been out of a second hand box at some convention, does not mean it's OK to put it in some college library. If I wanted colleges to have my fanzines, I'd have sent them around. So, just how are you going to contact everyone, when so many of the fanzine folks are now dead, moved, in nursing homes, etc? What if something that was quietly underground, a few copies of a story for friends, suddenly comes to the attention of the Powers That Be, and suddenly some fan minding his/her own business with their quiet little hobby is now being sued, because your organization allowed some publisher or studio mogul masquerading as a researcher, to copy a lot of stuff? Personally, I think this is A Bad Idea, especially the part about allowing copying. [9]

Others point out that since the donations are coming from fellow fans that fandom communities should talk amongst themselves and reach a consensus as to how they'd like their corner of history to be preserved - while understanding that fandom is a world-wide community that consists of many people, many nations and cultures, many fandoms and many differing ideas of what it means to be a "fan" and part of a "fan community."

It seems to me that your best course of action is to encourage your zine subscribers NOT to donate, then. If your small fandom is composed of people who share your views, then you won't have a problem. You can even include a statement on your Table of Contents explaining your wishes for the ultimate fate of your zines.....[Special Collections is] relying solely on donations FROM FANS -- the fans who bought your zines however many years ago, the fans who share your history and are part of your community. Discuss these issues within your fan communities. You might find that the people you've been writing for all along genuinely desire a way for these writings to be preserved for the future, or you might find that they're happy to agree to your requests. Either way, that's for you and your fellow fans to figure out. [10]

Fan Road Trips To The Archives

Since the Special Collection has opened in 2009, several fans have taken road trips (one might even call them pilgrimages) to the Special Collections Fanzine Archives.

  • March 2011: a detailed report by darksnowfalling can be found here.[11] An excerpt: :"I am a huge Star Trek fan; specifically, I am a fan of the idea of a romantic relationship between Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock. I'm here to read old fanzines in order to gain a better understanding of my fandom's history in the days before the Internet." [12]

from that podcast:

[Monica]: We recently went to the University of Iowa archives. They have a great fandom collection with tons of Starsky and Hutch fanzines and letterzines and published novels and all sorts of great fandom artifacts. Artifacts, that makes us sound ancient... You know fandom objects....

[Rachel]: Well the very first time I went there was just so much to look at. This is the amazing thing about the Iowa archives is there's just box after box after box of materials.....

[Jen]:....there's just so much material in these archives that it's hard to even keep track. I mean, we've been there, Monica. I've been there three times now and we have still barely scratched the surface and we're just looking at Starsky and Hutch. So if there's any way that you can get to the archives at the University of Iowa and you have any interest in fandom history, I highly recommend it because there's a wealth of material there. And they're very friendly. ....the staff are very nice.

[Monica]: I recommend bringing chocolate to the staff so, you know, offer a sacrifice to the librarians, then they won't be harsh with you. They carry heavy boxes. It's true. They're very strong.

Read More

Other Similar Academic Collections

See also Fanzine Library.

The University of Iowa is not the first or the only institution to collect fanzines. Starting in the late 1990s and early to mid 2000s, universities began collecting fanzines and making them part of their Special Collections. Often these fan fiction fanzines are part of a larger collection focusing on popular culture. As such university 'fanzine libraries' are more like archives than lending/circulating libraries with access restrictions and limited or no circulation.

Examples of other academic fanzine libraries include


  1. ^ The media fanzine collection is part of a larger fandom-based collection maintained by the University of Iowa. The word 'Fandom' in this collection is used to encompass a wide range of not only media fandoms, but also science fiction- and fantasy-based fandoms. The collection also include the papers of Nicholas Myer, who directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The finding aid for the entire Fandom Special Collections can be found here.
  2. ^ See Organization for Transformative Works Fanzine and Fan Fiction Collection. Some FCPP donations are housed as separate, named collections, according to the wishes of the person donating. For example, see Morgan Dawn The Professionals Circuit Library and Fanzine Collection.
  3. ^ ~ University of Iowa, Fandom-Related Collections at the University of Iowa.
  4. ^ Predating Sandy's donation is M.Horvat's Science Fiction Fanzine Collection which consists of over 15,000 general sci-fi fanzines dating back to the 1920s. It is one of the largest collections of science-fiction fanzines in the world.
  5. ^ Announcing: The Fan Culture Preservation Project!, Archived version
  6. ^ ~FAQ from the OTW's Fan Culture Preservation Project.
  7. ^ University of Iowa Libraries Begin to Digitize Decades of Fanzines Library Journal, July 2015
  8. ^ Yay! by Arduinna, 18 June 2009
  9. ^ ' ~'My fannish publications ' by Hindman, 18 June 2009
  10. ^ ~'It seems to me that your best...' by Loligo, 22 June 2009
  11. ^ backup URLs of darksnowfalling's visit here, here, and here , accessed March 23, 2013.
  12. ^ darksnowfalling's statement on the admission forms as reported in her travelogue to the fanzine archives: backup URL.
  13. ^ Episode 02 – Me & Thee & Three, Archived version