Opportunistic collaboration

Sian Everitt (Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, The University of Central England, Birmingham, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To review a small specialist repository's strategic and opportunistic approach to utilising collaborative regional and national digital initiatives to increase access. The Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD) Archives activity is evaluated to determine whether a project‐based approach recognises and meets the needs of historians, or in manufacturing a digital semblance, does it in fact mislead historians.


The context in UK higher education and the archives domain of an emphasis on the digitisation of resources evident in national policies is outlined. Recent studies into the requirements and expectations of academics and historians as users of archives and digital resources are considered. BIAD Archives' creation of a repository web site and participation in national collection level description schemes are examined. The experience of two collaborative digitisation projects, a national subject‐based virtual collection and a regional collaborative information literacy initiative, are described and reflected upon.


An opportunistic project‐based approach does not easily accumulate as a cohesive strategy for increasing access. Collaboration is problematic. It is beneficial in raising profiles and can act as a legitimising agent. It entails compromise, applying an external filter to collections and potentially creating a digital semblance. The proliferation of projects raises concerns of sustainability, invisibility within the deep web and that merely signposting may not satisfy user needs. To address this problem archives as a domain require a more sophisticated understanding of all our different users.


Critical reflections on collaborative practice beneficial to archivists and resource managers embarking on digitisation initiatives and to those developing collaborative projects.



Everitt, S. (2005), "Opportunistic collaboration", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 312-323. https://doi.org/10.1108/00330330510627935

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