Community Digital Archiving

Self-Sufficient Culture, Heritage and Free Software


The choice of Free and Open Source software is an important one for a community archive.  Among the reasons for this are the facts that Free Software leaves communities and other users in control of the future, and that Free Software  tends to be based on standards, which are both important aspects in achieving longevity, the key outcome of running an archive.

A distinction should also be made between holding an archival object and displaying it; a community digital archive should not be a web site, though a web site can be part of a community archive.  The principle of separating out display, a short-term interpretive function, from the repository, a long term storage function, was considered to be key.

The choice of software eventually settled on DSpace, originally a collaboration between Hewlett Packard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  It can be accessed here:-

DSpace is in use in most of the world’s universities for various archival purposes and confirms to various standards relevant to the field.  It is under active development under the direction of Duraspace, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to durable repository software.

The web site provides training material and community assistance along with full documentation and even user groups.  This makes the local provision of training to end users a lot easier.

DSpace runs under Tomcat and uses the Postgresql database.

Functionally, from the end user perspective, DSpace is quite simple and straight forward.  Archival objects can be searched for and displayed via a browser or can be accessed via  a web site set up to interpret archival objects.


After this page was written, an archiving option that was relatively new when the Assynt Archive was first set up has become a contender in this space, and that is Omeka.  Its big advantage over DSpace is that it is a lot simpler to install and run, and requires fewer resources, all of which make it better suited for community archiving.

As a result, we migrated our archive, proving one of the key points about the use of Free and Open Source software – that the use of standards makes such migrations a lot easier.  An account of this migration is documented here.