Project design


To be successful, the Forum relies heavily on participation from those thinking and working around the topics of practical, technological, and legal and ethical concerns related to discovery, access, and use of archives and special collections. This includes a wide variety of roles across multiple disciplines, job functions, and organizational contexts, such as (but not limited to) the following:

  • Archives and library workers, including archivists, librarians, managers, and administrators, who represent the primary functional stakeholders in front-end systems integration. We invite nominations across organizational contexts (academic libraries, public libraries, museums, community archives, historical societies, grassroots/nonprofits, corporate, consortia, and government archives) and job function or specialization (arrangement and description, public services, metadata management, and digital collections).
  • Technology workers, including software developers, user experience designers, product managers, systems architects, and technical leadership. We invite nominations from those who work in archives and libraries or those with related interest and experience. This includes those who work within the context of libraries and archives, as well as those who work for vendors, consortia, or other software and service providers.
  • Those with interest or expertise in terms of legal and ethical concerns related to archives and special collections, such as intellectual property, inclusive description, cultural sensitivity, risk management, and open access.


To this end, the Forum and project center our activites around four principles:

  • We believe everyone has something to contribute; not everyone needs to be a self-identified expert.
  • We focus on shared and holistic concerns and recommendations, rather than system- or platform-specific integrations.
  • We enable the adaptability of recommendations across contexts, communities, levels of resourcing.
  • We develop recommendations consciously as an inclusive expression of professional ethics and values.


Guided by the project's principles, the project and its events were intended to be inclusive opportunities for collaboration, informed by the experience of the participants. During project conception and planning for its events, the project team was inspired by methodologies used in human-centered design. Based on the past experience of other facilitators and discussions with the project's participant advisors, the project primarily used methods drawn from the Liberating Structures framework. Drawing heavily from the Liberating Structures principle to "include and unleash everyone," we selected facilitated activities for the Forum and Working Meeting that ranged from individual, silent reflection, to small group interaction, to large group interactions. The Liberating Structures model allowed the project team and facilitators to establish a balance between control and freedom, and gave participants an active voice in steering the outcome of the activities.

The project team knew that inclusive methods were not sufficient, and the work of the project also needed to be informed by additional guidelines and expectations for participants and facilitators. To be truly transformational, our work needed to be conducted in a space that acknowledges the power dynamics of bringing together workers across professional contexts, roles, and job classifications, acknowledging institutional privilege, and the lack of representation of marginalized people within the archives, library, and technology sectors. This led to the development of a set of Community Agreements and a Code of Conduct. The use of these facilitation methods, combined with the Community Agreements and Code of Conduct, allowed the project team and facilitators to set forth a care-focused set of principles for the project and our meetings.

Key concepts

Our project organized itself around a new understanding of the work and technical components necessary to ensure effective access and uses of materials held by archives and special collections. This allowed us to develop a shared understanding across project participants, and helped ensure that the project and deliverables remained aligned with the project’s goals and objectives.

Archival discovery and delivery is how the Lighting the Way project describes what people, processes, and systems do to support finding, accessing, and using material from archives and special collections. While the project initially focused on integration between systems as its primary area of analysis, early project investigations and the discussions at the Forum led us to realize that this work is necessarily performed by people in a variety of roles – not just archives workers, but library workers, technology workers, and others with varying skill sets, areas of expertise, levels of responsibility, and positional power within their institutions. Part of the broader challenge is to determine how to effectively align the people, processes, and systems that fit into this broader function. It requires close collaboration across job roles and responsibilities, departments, and institutions, like other areas of work, but in some senses is the least understood given these complexities. “Archival discovery and delivery” is thus intended to underscore the complexity and interdependence of the work, and to take a more expansive view of this work than solely focusing on technical development and implementation completed and supported by a given IT service provider.

Integration is the use of processes or tools to join these systems to work together as a coordinated whole, which provides a “functional coupling” between systems. Inadequate integration for archival discovery and delivery not only impacts researchers, but can also impact archives, library, and technology workers responsible for those functions and systems. Integration also requires close collaboration across job roles and responsibilities, departments, and institutions, and thus fundamentally relies on people and their relationships as well.