Community Generated Content in Arts and Heritage

   Critically Endangered small

Digital materials produced and shared in and by ad-hoc community art and heritage projects, typically through digitization, where the creation of digital materials was a significant purpose of the initiative.

Digital Species: Community Archives

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is a priority.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

Loss seems likely: by the time tools or techniques have been developed the material will likely have been lost.


Locally organized programmes associated with public remembrance and celebration such as World War One centennial commemorations; City of Culture; Olympic Games; World Cup.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Poor documentation; lack of replication; lack of continuity funding; lack of residual mechanism. dependence on a small number of volunteers, lack of preservation mandate; lack of preservation thinking at the outset; failure of digital legacy planning; conflation of backup with preservation; conflation of access and preservation; inaccessible to web archiving; lack of knowledge or application of standards to ensure good quality preservation actions; lack of internet access; distrust of “official” archives.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Residual archive with residual funding able to receive and support collections; strict adherence to digitization guidelines; quality assurance; active user community; intellectual property managed to enable preservation.

2023 Review

This entry was added in 2019 as a subset of ‘Community Archives and Community-Generated Content’ which was split into two to provide greater specificity in recommendations. The 2020 Jury noted a trend towards greater risk based on how Community art and heritage groups, which often rely on volunteer effort, have been unable to meet for extended periods in 2020. Moreover, the local galleries, museums and arts centres on which they depend have closed, in some cases for good. Considering this dislocation, digital materials generated by community groups in arts and heritage are likely to be at a greater risk than in 2019.

The 2021 Jury agreed with the Critically Endangered classification and 2020 trend towards greater risk. However, the risk had not increased to the extent where there was a notable 2021 trend. The Jury commented that risks have not increased as so much as the challenges have remained, specifically those of funding and sustainability. Community-generated materials are often produced and shared through funded projects and tell a similar story of loss through inaction, but the challenge is the same as before; sustainability with project-based funding. There should be greater Responsibility of funding bodies to ensure that digital preservation is built into any funded community preservation project plan and outcome. Digital content in this context is often seen as a by-product of engagement and is annoyingly left to disappear by organizations that do not have digital preservation experience or infrastructure. With good governance and sustainable digital repository support, this should not be an issue.

The 2023 Council agreed with the Critically Endangered classification but noted a higher significance of loss as well as a higher inevitability of loss, and from this a greater imminence of action to assess, prioritize, and develop tools and techniques for reducing future loss of materials.

Additional Comments

Local archives address these collections on an ad hoc basis. Loss seems likely due to the precarity of the funding streams, or lack thereof, for these projects. Once digitization has been carried out, many projects do not know what to do with them or have the means to make them accessible and a lack of understanding of copyright is a barrier to sharing as well. Funding paths that enable digitization may not include planning for long-term storage and access. This does often tend to be the case in local archives, where a higher imminence of action is critical to assess and address these issues before content is lost.

Communities who live in rural and remote areas may have a lack of access to services such as broadband connectivity, which is a well-reported issue and is often referred to as the “digital divide”. Inadequate internet connectivity would diminish the capacity for these communities to access digital preservation solutions, such as cloud storage for digital assets. This is especially prevalent with personal photos and videos on mobile phones as possession of a mobile phone does not necessarily mean the user has adequate internet connectivity to be able to upload videos to web-based platforms.

There may also be a distrust of “official” archives and government agencies due to the need for culturally appropriate handling of restricted/sensitive content. If the photographs, videos or audio depict culturally sensitive elements (e.g., sacred sites, ceremonies or secret Dreaming stories), the communities may want to uphold strict practices of restrictions. There are instances where “official” archives have changed their workflows and processes to accommodate the cultural wishes of particular First Nation communities, especially for secret/sacred content but these practices are not yet common-place. A detailed look into the preservation issues of secret/sacred content can be found in the New First Nations Secret/Sacred Cultural Material entry.

Case Studies or Examples:

  • The PARADISEC Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures project to digitize analog records of materials from endangered cultures from all over the world. This includes audio recordings and video recordings of performance, narrative, singing, and other oral tradition, amounting to over 207 terabytes and representing 1,370 languages, mainly from the Pacific region. See PARADISEC (n.d.), ‘Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023].

  • The State Library New South Wales ‘Reconnecting collections to communities’ Mukurtu implementation, in which the Indigenous Engagement team works to make available the Library’s Aboriginal Historical and Indigenous Languages collections to communities on Country and online. See State Library New South Wales (2022), ‘Reconnecting collections to communities’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023].

  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Archive (ATSIDA) is a specialized trusted research data management facility for Australian Indigenous research data and is managed by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Library. ATSIDA is a thematic archive within the Australia Data Archive (ADA) with its datasets stored securely at the Australian National University's National Computational Infrastructure (NCI). See ATSDISA (n.d.). Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023].

See also:

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