Drogheda Local Voices (DLV) Preservation Plan 2017
Drogheda Drogheda Local Voices (DLV)

Drogheda Local Voices (DLV) is a not-for-profit community organisation that records and archives the oral history of the Drogheda area. It has been active for over twenty-five years and has an archive of many hundreds of audio and video recordings. DLV was one of the lucky recipients of the 2017 Heritage Council funding to implement a preservation plan for it’s archive.

Funding Received

The main source of funding for this project was from the Heritage Council and additional funds to support the project were received from Louth County Council Community Facilities Scheme 2017 as well as some personal funds.

Project Overview

There were three phases to this project, the assessment of the preservation risks to the collection, the cataloguing of the collection and the promotion of the collection.

Phase One: A group of five volunteers and three CE scheme employees compiled a detailed inventory of the physical collection. This is the vast majority of the DLV collection. Once this was documented and the equipment available was assessed it was clear where the obvious preservation risks where. A key element that needed to be addressed was the IT infrastructure and suitable storage for both the physical and digital collection items as well as recording equipment.

Phase Two: This phase of the project requires listening to the recordings, creating a short description of the recordings and assigning keywords. It also gives details about the sound quality of the recording, the physical condition of the file format and the length of the recording. A shared Google folder was used for all the documentation of the project and Google Sheets was used as the catalogue. The Dublin Core metadata standard was used as this is the most accessible standard for non-experts to use. A detailed user guide for each field was developed for volunteers to use.

This phase of the project is still ongoing as the collection is very large and even with a good number of volunteers it will take a considerable amount of time to complete in full. However, a large proportion of the collection is now accessible because of the initial details that have been documented.

DLV Metadata fields and definitions

DLV Sample Catalogue Record

Phase Three: This phase of the project focused on the promotion of DLV and the support that we received from the Heritage Council to implement a preservation strategy for the archive. There was a report with a photo of the volunteers and CE staff at Millmount, Drogheda to promote the project and the Heritage Day event that was held on the 27/08/2017 in the local media as well as a Facebook event listing.

Although there are still risks to the preservation of this collection, after the IT infrastructure and storage facilities were updated the collection is in a much healthier position. The only way to ensure long term preservation is with continued financial support to update hardware and software when needed, which is a challenge for any voluntary run organisation in Ireland.

Personal Data Issues

It was originally hoped that we would be able to publish our catalogue records at the end of 2017 on various websites and continually update them on a regular basis. However, this was not possible as this would potentially be in breach of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines that come into force in May 2018 as most of the record titles include personal names and details in the descriptions. As DLV has been working for over 25 years, many of the best practice standards have changed during this period which is why many of the recordings in the collection do not have any copyright clearance assigned to the archive. This is a very common issue with audio/visual archives. After consulting with the website and asking for confirmation if it was possible to publish the catalogue records we were advised not to until the proper clearance was obtained for all the recordings. It was always the intention of the group to obtain these permissions retrospectively but following this news it has now moved to a higher priority on the task list. This will be a long process but it will get underway in summer 2018. Once some of these permissions have been obtained sections of the catalogue will be published online.

Long Term Issues

There are many challenges facing audio/visual archives in Ireland regardless if they are national institutions or community-based groups as there is no legal mandate or funding available through central funds for the preservation of these materials. With changes in technology there are more potential preservation risks. At the start of this project it was hoped that we could find a solution for the long-term preservation of the digital collections but without annual funding this is quite difficult and only short-term solutions could be implemented. At the moment the majority of the collection is on older physical file formats such as cassette tape, mini disc and CD. Very soon it will be very difficult to find the equipment needed to play these recordings, thus these recordings need to be digitised in the near future. However, this would put that collection at greater risk unless a long-term solution can be found for the preservation of the digital files long-term. At the moment there is no trusted repository available to deposit the collection without permission for online open access from people involved in the recordings and enough funding to pay an annual subscription fee. The alternative option is cloud storage but with a large collection this would be unsustainable for any community-based group and there would be a risk that the group would be locked out of the collection.

Next Steps

There is a plan to write an article for an open access academic journal in the near future that will go into more detail about the project and highlight the challenges faced by community-based audio/visual archives in Ireland.

We have had some new volunteers sign up to catalogue some of the recordings in the collection. These volunteers are studying a Masters in Library and Information Studies and are looking for work experience in an audio/visual archive, we are always open for volunteers to get involved whether it is for work experience or out of personal interest.