Community Digital Archiving

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AmbITion Scotland’s Practical Digital Communications workshop

  • March 12, 2014 9:51 am

A group of folk from a number of museums and cultural  collections in the Highlands gathered at Ironworks in Inverness on Monday 10th March 2014.  Folk from Inverclyde. Aberdeen, Gairloch, Applecross, Skye and Ullapool were there, keen to see how to improve communication with their audiences using digital options.  The workshop was arranged by AmbITion Scotland and presented by Diane Greig and Deborah Hair.

Workshop particpants

Workshop particpants

The workshop provided insights into aspects of marketing principles required to develop a coherent approach to communicating with different groups who may have, or should have, an interest in the museums and collections represented. It was important to have a measurement of success to determine how best to communicate, and one method was not sufficient.

Almost al participants had stories of how it was often quite difficult to communicate consistently with those nearest their projects, as well as those in the broader sphere.  It was at times difficult to create a connection between commercial approaches to communication and the realities of life in very small, rural communities, but there is no doubt that a better-understood, orderly method of communicating holds real benefits.

It was also very good to be able to meet other folk engaged in similar tasks.  The sense of being engaged in the cultural and heritage sectors for a greater good was a welcome one, and finding others with shared highs and lows was great. Face to face communication to learn about digital communication?  Yes, ideal.

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Thanks to Diane and Deborah and all from Ambition Scotland for a helpful day.

Learnings from a community archiving project

  • February 14, 2014 2:03 pm

One of the odd things about a community archiving system is that it is used really in fits and starts.  Much of the time, it may simply sit there, with peaks of activity coming when volunteers have time to carry out archivists tasks, or training is carried out.  The Assynt Community Digital Archive has four workstations, and these, too, are not used on a daily basis, but when they are used, they are used fairly intensively.  So if something on the systems is not quite working correctly, it may be some time before anyone notices.

This has been the case just recently.  As reported earlier, the Assynt Field Club has an archiving project under way at the moment.  The appointed archivist, Avril Haines, is doing a great job curating the physical material, digitising, describing and uploading the information the Field Club are currently interested in.  But as she is using the systems little hassles creep in.  An example is the scanning application.  From time to time, the “Save” button needs to be clicked twice.  Now there is almost certainly a reason or explanation of this strange outcome, but usually technical problem solving relies on consistency and replicability, the need for the issue to arise every time and the ability to make the problem occur to be able to solve it.  This is much more difficult when the systems are only in use from time to time.

One should probably focus on the fact that in spite of the infrequent use, the systems are remarkably reliable, and the issues that have occurred are more like hassles than show-stoppers.  It would be a problem if users of the systems became concerned that, for example, a system would not start, or expected software was not available, and none of these occur.  Some little events are also due to unfamiliarity with software.  For example, recent versions of the Mozilla Firefox web browser come up with a message on startup that may sound alarming, alerting the user that the previous pages and tabs were shut down and asking if the pages and tabs should be restored. If you’re not used to Firefox that could be interpreted as an error (and even if you are used to Firefox, it can be very frustrating to have the same message every time you start the program.)

But the ad hoc nature of the way the systems are used is one of the oddities of running this type of environment.

Assynt Field Club Archiving Project

  • January 16, 2014 11:26 am

The Assynt Field Club, a local society for those interested in natural history and ecology, has a collection of material gathered over many years, in the form of physical records, slides, maps, diary entries, logs and many other information records.  Many of these records are the work of Pat and Ian Evans, who also received sighting records, photographs and other information from field club members, Assynt residents, visitors and field specialists.  Much of information pre-dates the common availability of digital formats.  The Field Club is aware of the archival value of all this information, but the task of digitising it all and making it accessible is a huge one, almost certainly beyond the scope of voluntary work to get it all done.  The Field Club has long been aware of the possibilities the Assynt Community Digital Archive represents to their archival requirements.

The suggestion was made to seek funding for a pilot exercise, and the North Highland Initiative was approached to see how such an exercise would fit with their priorities.  The intent was that the Field Club would run the project, using the facilities of the Assyt Community Digital Archive.  NHI was enthusiastic about the proposal, and it was agreed to fund a short project of 22 days as a pilot to determine the value, scope and achievability of such an archiving project.  A local resident, Avril Haines, was selected as the archivist, from a very capable and satisfyingly large list of applicants.  Avril’s training in digital  techniques and archiving principles started in January 2014.  The project is run under the auspices of NHI, with local oversight by the Field Club representatives, mainly Ian Evans and Andy Summers.  Eilidh Todd of NHI has been wonderful regarding the administration and facilitation of the post, and Ian Mitchell very helpful with candidate selection.

At the end of the pilot, a report will be drawn up to lay out the learnings of the project and to determine criteria for future such work, if applicable.

This is a great example a local social group making use and “owning” a section of the Assynt Community Digital Archive, achieving their own ends, but also contributing towards a greater whole.  For further information, email Stevan-  ku.oc.evalsnitnull@evalsnit