|December 16, 2016||Posted by Stevan under Consultancy, Everyday Notes, Operations||
The Assynt Community Digital Archive was set up in 2011 as a long term community initiative. Readers of this site will know that among the founding principles of the Archive was an adherence to metadata standards and the choice of Free and Open Source software on which to run the Archive. Among the reasons for this, which have been proven over the years, is that Free Software finds no advantage in attempting to lock users in, the Free Software movement requiring technical excellence as the reason for staying with, or moving to or from, a software package.
The original choice of DSpace was an appropriate one for Assynt’s archive, as at that stage it was not clear how the archive would develop, or how the community would make use of it. DSpace would provide an industrial-strength, proven platform to hold securely any digital item thrown at it.
Another contender was the Omeka system, also discussed extensively on this site. At the time the Assynt Archive was set up, Omeka was still in its infancy, having been developed from around 2008. Like DSpace, it adheres to standards, most notably using Dublin Core metadata, as well as providing standard interfaces to export and import data. Unlike DSpace, which seeks only to be a repository of information, Omeka also allows extensions for creating digital exhibits, and provides mechanisms to view some details of the digital record easier. There are pros and cons regarding this philosophical difference in approach, which need not be discussed here.
One advantage Omeka has, in practical terms when it comes to managing a digital archive in the longer term, is simplicity of technical implementation. Omeka is based on PHP and MySQL (or MariaDB) while DSpace is based on Java and Postgresql, requiring a runtime Java environment and a more complicated build and upgrade routine. While it would be wonderful if Omeka abstracted the database requirement, allowing Postgresql to be used as an alternative to MySQL, there is no doubt that it is easier to run an Omeka instance than a DSpace instance.
Meanwhile, in Assynt, we are gearing up for some additional demands of the digital Archive, as the Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape Partnership (CALLP) has been successful in gaining lottery funding for a series of large projects over the next five years. It s likely that these projects’ data legacies will be met by the Assynt Community Digital Archive, and there was a desire to ensure that a suitable degree of flexibility, to support better the projects’ potential requirements, was available to them. It looked likely that Omeka, now a much more established system, would be a better option.
A series of meetings and demonstrations of the systems with the volunteer archivists gave the go-ahead to transfer one DSpace community to Omeka, to see whether it suited general requirements. That was successful, and all the DSpace communities and collections were transferred, using import plugins on the Omeka side, and standard export interfaces on the Dspace side.
Among the advantages are a slightly more acceptable, to casual browsers, user interface – Omeka looks more modern and less academic in its standard guise – and the fact that many data types, especially images, are displayed in line with the record. From a systems architecture point of view, it was decided to provide each existing (and future) DSpace community with its own Omeka instance, so that each community or project can make its own decisions about how look-and-feel, or even about where it wants to host its data. This approach does make for more repetitive future systems administration, but also spreads any future risk.
As before, all the new systems were built using virtual machines, making the systems less hardware-dependent. Hardware, in some circumstances for community archiving, is now much less of an issue compared with a few years ago, and Omeka’s lighter requirements contribute to this.
It looks as though cross-training to Omeka would be easy, and training new volunteers would be no more challenging than with DSpace.
The change to Omeka from DSpace for the Assynt Archive by no means implies than Omeka is “better” than DSpace, or that Dspace is not fit for this purpose. It simply means that, given this choice of option, for Assynt’s current requirements, Omeka looks to fit the bill a little better.
If you want further information about this, please contact me.
|March 1, 2016||Consultancy, Education|
As in many rural communities, place names in Assynt mean a lot more than merely words on maps. They indicate what is and was important to everyday life, and very often give a glimpse of how much more the land was used in times gone by. Alastair Moffat notes in one of his books that the landscape, in the form of place names, doesn’t forget, and when we start tapping into this source of history, […] show more
|November 2, 2015||Consultancy, Interesting|
It was a very welcome invitation from Lucy Conway of the Island of Eigg History Society, Commun Eachdraidh Eige, to visit to assist the group there to develop plans for a community digital archive. Late October weather and ferry crossings do not always make ideal partners, and in this case, the Loch Nevis, the usual ferry was out of operation. The easiest way from Assynt to Eigg is via Skye, meaning two ferry trips, from […] show more
|March 8, 2015||Consultancy|
The True North conference took place at Timespan in Helmsdale on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th March 2015. The conference title was a good way of reflecting the eclectic nature of the presentations, from technologists through to sound artists, geo-political visionaries to genealogists and many points in between. I had a five minute slot into which I managed to cram one or two practical issues which are the real experience of running digital archives, especially […] show more
|February 18, 2015||Consultancy, Technical Comment|
January 2015 saw a major update to the tiny little raspberry Pi single board computer, which I have previously written about here. The Pi now has four times the number of “cores” on the same chip, and four times the amount of memory of the original, and is roughly six times as powerful. Yet it is the same astonishing price, just £25. This puts the Pi well into the frame for establishing a community digital […] show more
|December 3, 2014||Consultancy, Education|
The Wildflower Europe project has recently produced a e-publication (http://wildflowereurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Community-historic-archives.pdf ) based on the research and practical experiences in setting up a community history digital archive in a small rural community in Scotland, and on ethnobotanical pilot work in botanical rich areas of South East Europe. Wildflower Europe’s aims were to share experiences and to promote the feasibility of developing small scale archives at community level. In addition they were investigating the use of archiving […] show more
|November 25, 2014||Technical Comment|
Omeka is interesting digital archiving software in that it combines the storage requirement with interpretive and presentational capabilities. This can be a two-edged sword, but for some requirements, Omeka is attractive. Omeka is also Free Software and is published under the General Public Licence. It is much simpler to install than, say, DSpace, in that it is written in PHP, which most servers support easily and which is well understood for ease of use. And […] show more
|July 7, 2014||Consultancy, Principles, Technical Comment|
One of the constant themes you will find on this web site is the concept of taking a long view regarding running a digital archive. This truism is sometimes in conflict with the world in which it operates, the technological and digital world, which is driven by constant expectations of “upgrades”, “features”, “faster” and other implications of improvement. In the consumer digital world, we are used to the short life spans of technology, but in […] show more
|May 10, 2014||Interesting, Operations, Principles|
The Assynt Field Club, as reported here, set up a project to begin the process of archiving digitally a huge set of physical collections of sighting records and other information they have accumulated over many years. Key to these collections is the work of two local residents, Pat and Ian Evans. Through the North Highland Initiative, funds were made available to employ an archivist to carry out a pilot project. The pilot seeks to establish […] show more
|April 2, 2014||Consultancy, Operations, Principles|
If you have read something of the history of the Assynt Community Digital Archive on this site or elsewhere, you will know that the Archive was set up as part of the project that brought the old Fishermen’s Mission building into community ownership as a bunkhouse and café in 2009, opening in 2011. The Assynt Community Association, a long-standing umbrella body for various Assynt initiatives, took the lead in this, and the building is owned […] show more
|March 12, 2014||Interesting|
A group of folk from a number of museums and cultural collections in the Highlands gathered at Ironworks in Inverness on Monday 10th March 2014. Folk from Inverclyde. Aberdeen, Gairloch, Applecross, Skye and Ullapool were there, keen to see how to improve communication with their audiences using digital options. The workshop was arranged by AmbITion Scotland and presented by Diane Greig and Deborah Hair. The workshop provided insights into aspects of marketing principles required to […] show more