What is a community archive?

The definition of ‘community archive’ is the cause of some debate. Broadly speaking, people think of projects as community archives either because:

  1. The subject-matter of the collection is a community of people. The classic example is a group of people who live in the same location, but there are ‘communities of interest’ as well, such as people who worked in a certain profession.
  2. The process of creating the collection has involved the community. Typically, this means that volunteers have played a key role, sometimes alongside professional archivists.

The definition of community archive on this website

Community Archives is a contributory site. Anyone can add an archive to our directory, though of course entries are checked before publication. In the spirit of this, we take a broad approach to the definition of ‘community archive’. This means that if an organisation or project thinks it is appropriate to describe itself as a community archive, we’ll normally include it on the site.  If this approach starts causing problems, we may have to modify our policy, but for now the door is open.

The only caveat is that to satisfy the requirement of being an archive, the organisation should have a collection of some sort. This collection should include primary source material such as photos, documents, oral histories etc. (rather than just articles or essays about those source materials). The collection could be either physical or digital – or both.

What’s your view?

What do you mean by a community archive? Add your views via the Add a comment link at the bottom of this page.

Comments about this page

  • My wife and I are in the same situation as Barbara Hornby. We have been collecting history, stories, pictures, folklore and family histories and a few artifacts of our village for over ten years. We are contacted regularly by former residents and descendants of same almost every week for information and to donate their information. All is stored in our apartment We look on this as a community archive. We are volunteers and we do not charge our visitors, but consider this as our contribution to our community.

    By Brock Vodden (17/01/2011)
  • There is not a section for my situation: I am an individual who has collected things to do with the village in which I live over a number of years. The collection is kept in my house, and I now wish to store it elsewhere with a view to making it more accessible to everybody.

    By Barbara Hornby (15/07/2009)
  • The Community Archive Movement should be as much about encouraging and supporting local community groups to care and conserve for their records as about community archives which already exist in some form. My local community association and partnership forum have ‘archives’ in the form of records and files – they just don’t think of them as an ‘archive’, yet that is what they are, especially if they care and conserve them with advice and support from the Community Archives Movement.

    By Robert Howard (12/03/2007)
  • A community archive is an archive managed by a community organisation, that is, an organisation which is not-for-profit and non-governmental. Community organisations are expected to be independent of government and to challenge government. Community archives will differ from those sponsored by the state, which clearly will be promoting their own interests. We should expect public sector bodies to offer genuine pluralism, that is, to allow expression of a declared range of views. We should not be surprised if the public sector abuses its position – for example, in the way archives are selected or promoted.

    By Max Boucher (18/10/2006)

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