Assynt Community Archive – Home safe again
|April 2, 2014||Posted by Stevan under 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 by that charity. The Archive was given its own Archive Room upstairs in the Mission building, appropriately wired and equipped for its purpose. A trading company was formed to run the café and bunkhouse, but late in 2013, the trading company ceased to trade. It has now been wound up.
Now one of the issues that concerned us when the Archive was set up was to ensure that there was a complete legal separation between the trading entity and the long-term initiative which is the Archive, which was seen to be a possible issue as they both occupied the same building. Further, the temptation must exist to see the Archive as a short term exploitable asset rather than the long term proposition with societal rather than purely economic value. So effort went into ensuring a separation both legally and practically between the two. This separation was sometime over-effective, with a perception developing that the trading company staff were not allowed to direct visitors to the Archive, though improved communication helped that issue.
When the trading company ceased to trade, the bills that were paid to keep the heat and power and connections on also stopped, causing the Archive some short term problems. However, these were overcome over the winter, and now the Community Association is taking a different view on how to gain community value from the asset which is the building. One of the effects of this was the possibility that the Archive may be required to move. This is technically possible, and indeed, the initial design foresaw this eventuality, but of course, the question was where it could conceivably go. Other building in Assynt were not suitable. The upshot was that the Archive was asked to move from one location in the Mission building to another, which would easily have been possible.
But eventually the plans have worked out that there would no longer be a requirement to move, and a new trading company has been formed which will follow a slightly different business model. We wish Assynt Community (Trading) Ltd all the very best for a long and fulfilling existence and we look forward to working with the trading company in future, though, of course, remaining separate.
The point of this is that it is very important to get the legal framework right when setting up a community archive. It could easily have happened that the Archive may have had a legal connection to a trading company, exposing the archive to the vagaries of the market and the risks of commerce.