The term collaboratory, a compound of collaboration and laboratory, was introduced by William Wulf in the 90s. It describes the notion of collaboration independent of the location of the researcher, whereby the research instruments (such as software tools) are shared by all the users, as are databases, digital libraries and research results. It is the idea of a distributed collaboration on the Web, transcending national boundaries and focusing on a common object that is accessible to all.

“...center without walls, in which the nation’s researchers can perform their research without regard to geographical location - interacting with colleagues, accessing instrumentation, sharing data and computational resource, and accessing information in digital libraries.” (Kouzes/Myers/Wulf 1996: 40-46ff).

Collaboratories have been established chiefly in the natural sciences (molecular biology, chemistry, astronomy). Now Collate represents the attempt to apply this model to the humanities as well.