Access to the archive is a question communities will need to face. In some cases, full public access from the Internet may be intended, and in these cases, communities may wish to host their Archive with a service provider. In other cases, more limited access may be required.
In Assynt’s case, the ongoing cost of full internet access was considered unsustainable. But in addition to that, it was felt that the Archive was a resource for Assynt. not merely about Assynt, and that therefore local access was more important. In addition, the possibility of using the Archive as a visitor attraction to encourage visitors to visit Assynt existed. There is also the more subtle point that has become clear in practice, and that is that local people are more likely to offer personal artefacts for inclusion in the Archive while the perception exists that full Internet public access is available. This is not an easy aspect to explain, but the reality is that some people have objects, perhaps family pictures, which may have community value but which they do not want fully in the public domain. Restricted access to the archive itself is one way of setting their minds at rest.
Note though, that the above is with reference to full access to the Archive itself. There is a distinction, though, between the archive repository and presenting objects from within that archive. Therefore it is expected that, from time to time, a project would be raised to develop a public facing web site that shows a subset of objects from the archive interpreted and curated in an appropriate way. This is seen as a separate function from the primary purpose of secure and indefinite holding of archival objects in a repository.
However, Assynt is a very dispersed community covering nearly 300 square kilometres though containing just 1000 people. It is recognised that it is not always for many archivists to have to come to the Mission building in Lochinver to do some work. For that reason, registered Archivists, and by agreement, bona fide researchers outwith Assynt, may access the Archive using a remote desktop capability, again delivered via a high performance Free Software solution. This gives remote access from any desktop platform to a virtual desktop providing the same capability as if the user were physically present.
Again, other communities will need to think through their expectations and ab