Critically Endangered small

Digital materials including ephemera, correspondence and campaign materials created as a by-product of small scale or ad-hoc community action groups

Group: Community Archives

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend towards greater risk

Previous classification: 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 many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


Archives of smaller and ad-hoc political and campaigning organisations; environmental protests; sports clubs; smaller religious groups; amateur music or drama; fan groups

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Poor documentation; lack of replication; lack of continuity funding; lack of residual mechanism; dependence on small number of volunteers, lack of preservation mandate; lack of preservation thinking at the outset; conflation of backup with preservation; conflation of access and preservation; inaccessible to web archiving; dependence on social media providers; distrust of ‘official’ agencies.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Residual archive with residual funding able to receive and support collections; active user community; intellectual property managed to enable preservation.

2021 Jury Review

The jury created this entry in 2019 as a subset of ‘Community Archives and Community-Generated Content’ which was split into two to provide greater specificity in recommendations for approaching the preservation of created as a by-product of small scale or ad-hoc community action groups (versus digital materials generated for significant purpose of a community initiative). There was a 2020 trend towards greater risk based on community groups such as sports clubs, religious communities, arts and political groups, often relying on volunteer effort, being unable to meet for extended periods in 2020. Moreover, the local community centres, clubs or places of worship on which they depend have closed, in some cases for good.
This trend continued for 2021; the Jury commented that much of the content in community archives has easily preservable content just the resources are not directed towards them, basic digital preservation practices are not well embedded amongst the general population, and selective approaches are needed to get a handle on the situation and to find the resources to do the work.

Additional Comments

Typically born digital material is more at risk - community groups may not know about the risk of loss. Many are unaware of digital preservation terminology. It is the ad-hoc nature of these groups and projects which is of great concern.

Significant need to raise awareness and provide a ‘home’ but also to do so with sufficient sensitivity so as to ensure community groups remain in control of their own material.

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