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.
Web sites sometimes appear to be archives. Some web sites can behave a lot like archives. But anyone who has run a web site for any length of time will be aware of a perceived need to "freshen up" the look of the site, or to adopt new technologies as they develop. Not so an archive, whose main purpose is the long term preservation of the information it contains. So an aspect of running a community digital archive is also to make room for web projects which interpret and present selected objects from the archive.
This is a similar process to a physical museum or other physical archive. there will be many more objects in warehouses than are displayed and interpreted in the public facing areas of the museum. Curators will change the displays every now and again, to incorporate changes to the interpretation or simply to encourage revisits.
From the point of view of community digital archiving, though, bear in mind that, while the archive may be accessed via a web page, it is not necessarily a web project in its own right. Web site presentation is a short term proposal that fulfills a different need to safe long term storage.
There is another aspect to this. Presentational web sites can absorb quite a lot of time or financial resource and are suitable for a clearly defined project. There is plenty of scope for creativity and "bling," all aspects of generating interest for the topic. But that display will inevitably have a shorter life than that envisaged for an archive. Yes it is possible to create a web site that allows for storage as well as presentation, but we believe the better option is to separate those functions completely, allowing a dedicated, specialised archival system to do what it does best, while allowing full scope for any and all creativity associated with developing an interesting presentational web display.
As part of the winter learning programme developed by Assynt Learning, training in the use of the Archive will be delivered in February and March 2013. It is a sign of the community nature of the Archive that Assynt Learning's welcome involvement is taking place. Anyone interested in taking part should contact Sharon or Sandra at the Leisure Centre on 844123