This panel explored the means and mechanics of collaboration in producing a major digital resource. It explored the various motivations of partners, the benefits of working in partnership and the lessons learnt from undertaking such activities.

Kevin Bolton, Archives+

The paper will explain how a partnership of local authority, university and voluntary archive and family history services have diversified its audience through digital interpretation and a learning/outreach programme.

The refurbished Manhchester Central Library reopened on 22 March 2014 and welcomed over 5000 customers on the first day. The library was closed for a period of four years and the success of the transformation is clearly evident with the creation of a world class original modern library fit for a world class city.

Central Library has become a major cultural destination and a must see visitor attraction in the city with a particular focus on Archives+ – a one stop shop and centre of excellence for family and local history, telling the story of Manchester and its people, through print, digital, photographic images and film.

Archives+ raises awareness of and provide easy access to our histories for the broadest possible audiences, including existing and new ones. The project makes archives more accessible by creating exciting digital interpretive exhibition spaces to provide new ways for more people to discover the richness and relevance of archives, share their own stories and have a personalised experience of the City Region’s history. A new learning and outreach programme helps people learn about and enjoy this nationally important collection.

The main partners in Archives + are:

  1. Greater Manchester County Record Office (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities).
  2. Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives (Manchester City Council).
  3. North West Film Archive (Manchester Metropolitan University).
  4. Race Relations Resource Centre (University of Manchester).
  5. Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust.
  6. Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society.
  7. British Film Institute (Mediatheque).
  8. Manchester Registration Service (Historic Registers).
  9. Familysearch International.

Simon Popple, University of Leeds

This paper will examine the development of collaborative relationships between institutions and citizens in relation to the recent Pararchive Project, which took place between 2013 and 2015 at the University of Leeds. ( It involved collaboration between a range of communities and two large institutional partners, the Science Museum Group and the BBC Archive.

The project had the aim of developing a range of research and curatorial tools that were designed and tested by communities in conjunction with technology developers. The project wanted to both empower ordinary citizens through encouraging the direct use of digital archives in creative work and historical research and at the same time examine how to break down the barriers between institutional collections and the publics they served. Using co-design methods in conjunction with innovative storytelling workshops and create technology labs the project demonstrates the necessity of co-creation approaches to the problems of digital curation, democratic encounters with official culture and developing new partnerships able to consider the challenges of the digital archive.

The project resulted in the creation of the new storytelling tool YARN ( that has just been launched and offers a series of insights into co-creation approaches, the role of institutional voice, concepts of democratisation of institutional culture, the changing conceptualisation of the audience, creative interventions and the role of the digital public space. It will argue for a commitment to partnerships between communities (defined in their broadest sense) and institutional partners to develop digital interfaces to facilitate co-curation, creative exploitation and shared copyright models that open up cultural resources and normalise relations in open digital space. It will examine the role of co-creation within this developmental context and offer a reading of current approaches to the problems of liberating cultural resources from formally closed and resistant institutions. It will also examine the tensions between different cultural sectors and draw on the experiences of institutional partners interested in exploring these approaches as a means of reaching new audiences and drawing on public expertise to inform knowledge about their collections.

Stella Butler, University of Leeds, and Paola Marchionni and Alex Thomas, Jisc

This session addresses the conference themes of digitally engaging with audiences and funding for digital collaboration.

The UK Medical Heritage Library, funded by Jisc and the Wellcome Library, and co-designed by RLUK, will transform access to a seminal period of medical history through the digitisation of 15 million pages of 19th Century texts drawn from nine UK Universities and Royal Colleges as well as the Wellcome Library’s own collection.

The project has required detailed coordination and partnership working between the many stakeholders involved and serves as a useful case study into the challenges and opportunities of managing print collections at a national scale.

The project also provides an opportunity to explore different ways of engaging various audiences with a large corpus of digital material. The development of an interpretive layer was included in early project planning, acknowledging the loss to readers of the natural serendipity in browsing physical books. The result is a project called Visualising Medical History which will produce interactive data visualisations allowing students and teachers to explore and understand the wider context of the collection and the trends and patterns within it. For scholars and researchers the project will produce visualisations and/or tools which allow for deeper semantic interrogation of the texts.

Paola Marchionni will introduce the session and explain how the project fits into Jisc’s digital content strategy. Dr Stella Butler will talk about the lessons learned from sharing print management and digitisation over an array of stakeholders. Finally Alex Thomas will explain how Visualising Medical History has approached the different needs of the audiences and produced visualisations which provide hitherto unexplored ways of engagement, learning and research.