Community Digital Archiving

Self-Sufficient Culture, Heritage and Free Software

Community Involvement

There is often an instinctive understanding within communities for a community archive along with an appreciation of a digital implementation of such an archive.  This is a deep seated aspect of human nature, according to the semiotician Umberto Eco, who notes that the desire to make lists and classify is universal and fundamental to who we are.

BUT, in a community context, that often means rolling up sleeves and doing something to get the work done, not an easy thing for a short term project, and much more difficult for initiatives with long term aims such as archiving.  When the work is often voluntary, that adds to the problems too.  Often the outcome is that too much is heaped on the shoulders of too few willing participants.  The ideal is to spread the load.

In Assynt’s case, the running of the Archive entails two main areas, management and oversight, the role of the management committee, and technical operations.  These two roles provide a community facility, to be used by existing groups or newly created groups, for their own archival purposes.  It would have been possible to set up an all-embracing group fully responsible for the Archive, as an alternative.

The intent is to allow social groups, such as the history societies or wild life societies, to run their own section of the Archive, providing their own trained volunteers to be responsible for their own section, and even having their own rules of engagement, within a broad framework defined by the management committee.  The facility is also open to individuals who may have collected a significant corpus of interesting artefacts and who either enjoy archiving, or wish to put their collection into a wider sphere.

Inevitably, people in the community unaffiliated with any group wish to donate items of interest outwith those structures.   In Assynt, we have not yet developed (early 2103) a group of suitably “peripatetic” volunteers to take on general archiving of this nature, a gap that needs to be filled.

A community digital archive project is a long term activity, though, and over time, community involvement and personnel will change.  It is up to individual projects to decide to what extent involvement should be “driven”  and to what extent it should take a natural course.  With the choice of community engagement made in Assynt, it would be important to maintain a view of the Archive as a dispassionate, universal resource to foster wide involvement.