With the archive research training sessions delivered, the next stage of the process was for our Project Worker to produce individualised research packs for each volunteer archive researcher. During the training sessions, the volunteers completed a quick survey as to how many days they would like to contribute to the project and what type of research they would like to do (digital or microfilm). With the results of the survey collated, our Project Worker set about creating the research packs with the necessary resources in for our volunteers. And with the flick of a magic wand (or more accurately a trip to our local post office), the research packs where on their way to our volunteers!
Whilst producing these research packs we began to question whether or not the paper-based approach was the most appropriate. Earlier in the process, in fact whilst writing the original grant application, suggestions of opting for a digital approach were discussed. It was proposed that the research results could be logged using cloud computing technologies and shared/collaborative document editing software in order to stream-line the process, reduce printing and their associated costs, and the effect on the environment through paper usage. Despite its benefits this process was also deemed to have a major downside – what if the people doing the archive research were not used to using such technologies? This question was debated and it was decided that (a) adopting a digital process may be a barrier to engagement for some people and (b) it may in turn throw up unexpected technical problems that could hinder the project. These are the two main reasons the paper-based approach was adopted.
Although we are still currently adopting the paper-based system as it is too late now post-volunteer training to change it, we’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has used cloud computer technologies and shared/collaborative document editing software on a large group research project and to find out how it worked out for you. So if you’ve tested a similar approach out, let us know how it went.