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The Assynt Learning Centre has very pro-actively been running a series of courses for older folk to get the most out of their computers, and to promote understanding of digital technologies.  Part of this has been to create digital content, with the course participants keen to allow their views and comments to be held in the community digital archive.  As promised in an earlier post, permission has been obtained to post an example of the resulting video snippets here.  The archive holds both a copy of the photograph being discussed and the video discussion.  This is such a wonderful way to add meaning to photos, it is hoped to do more of this in future.

As a follow up to an earlier report about taking short (less than one minute) video snippets of older folk describing and talking about photographs in their possession, a session was held yesterday at the Assynt Centre to see how these could be made in future.  I should get permission to upload one of the videos as an example, but one person had some photos and a photocopy of a newspaper page with her.  She explained that a couple in formal pose wearing Victorian clothing were the parents of some of the children at the school in Achmelvich (now the youth hostel) while a later picture, taken in the 1930s of a group of men, perhaps in Sabbath clothing, again quite formal-looking and self-aware, were two of the group, now grown up.  The newspaper page featured a picture of a man who was the head of an American shipping company, the son of one of the children in the school picture, and the grandchild of the Victorian couple.

Even describing these connections in words is interesting, but hearing a family member lay out this history and this heritage is powerful stuff.

Similarly, one person described a relatively recent picture associated with the Assynt Crofter's Trust, when they heard that they had been successful in their significant buy-out in the early 1990s.

We tried an Android tablet to do the recording, and this is a cost-effective and useful way of doing it.  However, most point-and-shoot cameras these days have a video capability, and the little Nikon we used had the advantage of image stabilisation, which created a much better outcome.  However, what became clear was that the actual technicalities of creating the record was of secondary significance to the content.

It is hoped to hold some sessions, perhaps an hour or so in length, where more of these video snippets can be gathered.

Excellent news just in regarding the Assynt Community Digital Archive.  One of the trainees on the recent archivist training course run under the auspices of Assynt Learning has sought and obtained permission to digitise and archive the documents and photographs relating to the conversion of a local building into a village hall.  There's a lot of history associated with our village halls, and plenty of documentation, for example, on how they have dealt with existential threats etc. which will be of use to others in future.  Great stuff, and we look forward to the new collection.

An interesting couple of session were spent at the Assynt Centre recently chatting with a group of older folk who meet regularly to improve their computer skills.  The intention was to let the group know that their skills can be of use for the community by archiving some of their information, or information they generate using their computer skills.

We came up with some ideas, including short sessions in which people bring in interesting old photographs, and chat through the memories the pictures generate.  The discussion can then either be recorded or filmed and the results put into the Archive.  We tried this to see if it would work in practice, using a tablet computer to do the filming.  The results were stunning, the discussion and additional background being absolutely riveting. We thought it would work best if there was a time limit on each discussion, to ensure good information.  In this way, a broader group of people can contribute towards a contemporary and lively discussion, allowing a wider group of folk to take an active role in the Archive.
We will see what results from this.  It was encouraging, though, to note that age is no barrier - in fact it's a positive advantage - to contributing to a community archive.

I was chatting with someone this morning regarding the different challenges facing community groups.  In particular, we were talking about long term storage and access to information which may be generated as part of a project.  Sometimes, information gets stored outside the community's or the project's control, and sometimes it doesn't get kept at all.  Sometimes, it is hoped someone else does all the storage.

The choice of Free and Open Source software that we have made here in Assynt shows that it is possible to retain control over information generated relating to your own location, project or community.  While technology fashions change, such as the latest fashion to store data "in the cloud," such options may not be conducive to long term needs of communities, especially when information is so important to who we are, and what makes our community important to us.

So whether you are involved in tourism, scientific projects, archaeology, geology, botany, social sciences, or the humanities, such as cultural projects, the need to store information remains.  As time passes, so the body of information collected becomes more valuable and more relevant to the community.  So when thinking about your project, remember that you can also manage the information legacy of the project, and do that in such a way that it has long term value to your community.