Supporting community-led digital moving image archives
: Between grubby flesh and insubstantial pixel.

  • Maya Rosa Darrell Hewins

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by UHI)


This thesis explores the day-to-day realities, needs and operational experiences of volunteer and community-led archive groups working with digitised moving image material in the United Kingdom. It identifies challenges to sustainably managing digital moving image material, offers explanations as to why these challenges arise, and tests and reports on methods of addressing these difficulties.
The structures, sites and experiences of individuals involved in community-led archive work are centred in this study through qualitative research underpinned by a relativist ontological position and a constructionist epistemology, seeking thick description through ethnographic research methods bounded by a case-study framework. Interviews, observations, analysis of documents, and the undertaking of archival tasks and activities utilising Action Research methods build a comprehensive picture of the many aspects of community-led moving image archival practices.
The principal study site is the Shetland Film Archive, based in Shetland, Scotland. The Assynt Digital Archive (Assynt, North-West Scotland) and Faodail/FOUND Archive Project (North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland) are valuable comparison sites. Given the importance of context and environment for community-led projects, additional interviews with third sector and arts and heritage organisations in the principal study site’s locality bring further perspectives on community-led practices.
This research argues that more attention should be paid to the social and socio-behavioural aspects of managing community-led moving image archives. It is also necessary for digital technologies to be considered in relation to the people using them, and that the continued maintenance of systems is anticipated. Greater visibility of archives generally, as well as of “hidden” archival tasks would raise awareness of the work in the community, and support sustainability.
Date of Award5 Oct 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of the Highlands and Islands
SponsorsESF studentship
SupervisorSimon Clarke (Supervisor) & Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart (Supervisor)

Cite this