Skip to content

Learnings from a community archiving project

One of the odd things about a community archiving system is that it is used really in fits and starts.  Much of the time, it may simply sit there, with peaks of activity coming when volunteers have time to carry out archivists tasks, or training is carried out.  The Assynt Community Digital Archive has four workstations, and these, too, are not used on a daily basis, but when they are used, they are used fairly intensively.  So if something on the systems is not quite working correctly, it may be some time before anyone notices.

This has been the case just recently.  As reported earlier, the Assynt Field Club has an archiving project under way at the moment.  The appointed archivist, Avril Haines, is doing a great job curating the physical material, digitising, describing and uploading the information the Field Club are currently interested in.  But as she is using the systems little hassles creep in.  An example is the scanning application.  From time to time, the "Save" button needs to be clicked twice.  Now there is almost certainly a reason or explanation of this strange outcome, but usually technical problem solving relies on consistency and replicability, the need for the issue to arise every time and the ability to make the problem occur to be able to solve it.  This is much more difficult when the systems are only in use from time to time.

One should probably focus on the fact that in spite of the infrequent use, the systems are remarkably reliable, and the issues that have occurred are more like hassles than show-stoppers.  It would be a problem if users of the systems became concerned that, for example, a system would not start, or expected software was not available, and none of these occur.  Some little events are also due to unfamiliarity with software.  For example, recent versions of the Mozilla Firefox web browser come up with a message on startup that may sound alarming, alerting the user that the previous pages and tabs were shut down and asking if the pages and tabs should be restored. If you're not used to Firefox that could be interpreted as an error (and even if you are used to Firefox, it can be very frustrating to have the same message every time you start the program.)

But the ad hoc nature of the way the systems are used is one of the oddities of running this type of environment.