Detail of Sambro Island Lighthouse lens from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

The annual conference of the Association of Canadian Archivists has just come to an end. It has been an excellent event, with many stimulating papers. One of Thursday’s sessions was particularly relevant to Deseronto, as the speaker, Ian Richards, did his Masters thesis on the topic of the contribution that archives can make to the development of their local communities. His particular focus is on the City of Brandon in Manitoba, but the general points he made are relevant to many other municipalities, including Deseronto. His thesis is available from the University of Manitoba’s electronic thesis collection.

Other sessions covered issues such as Access to Information and Privacy laws, measuring the impact of an archival program and the role of outreach in a networked world.

I gave a talk on the Saturday about the work we’ve been doing in Deseronto, including this blog and our Flickr and Twitter accounts. This dovetailed quite well with Ian’s talk and with the talks on outreach and impact, as I was trying to show what the effects of our engagement with these Web 2.0 technologies have been.* My main arguments were that people need direct access to online cultural materials from search engines, that they have to be able to share those materials with other people and that if they are experts on a particular item, they need to be able to contribute to improving its description.

I summarised the main impacts of sharing Deseronto’s photographs online as:

  • Comments and notes from users
  • Collaboration with users
  • New accessions: virtual, digital and tangible
  • New creative works
  • Funding for new projects

Many of these consequences have been featured in posts on this blog. The difficult thing to measure is the impact that the Archives’ activities have had upon the community of Deseronto as a whole. One of the sessions this week suggested that we need to measure the ‘hard to measure’, over an extended period of time. I look forward to hearing about the best way of achieving that.

*The slides are available on SlideShare.

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