Using the Archives Hub

"I use the Archives Hub to get a sense of what is available for my research. It is critical in helping me to use my time most efficiently. Being able to evaluate archives online allows me to do in-depth historical research." Lecturer, Loughborough University

"I value the extensive coverage - sometimes I just need to know what sort of material is already out there (rather than detailed descriptions) and I feel I can rely on the Archives Hub." Postgraduate researcher

Archives bring history to life, they teach, inform and inspire. They help shape national, communal and individual identity and they provide a stimulating environment for academic and personal research. The information contained in archives can be extremely useful for all types of research projects.

What are Archives?

Why use the Archives Hub?

What sort of archives are on the Hub?

What sort of archives are not on the Hub?

Searching Tips

Searching Examples

What are Archives?

Archives - in the sense that they are represented on the Archives Hub - are unique collections of material, created during the course of a person's life or day-to-day activities, or as part of a business or other activity, and considered worth preserving permanently for future research.

See 'What Are Archives' in our Guide to Using Archives.

Why use the Archives Hub?

The Archives Hub has been described as "An incredible resource for the researcher looking for materials relevant to their subject."

  • The unique resources we describe can be invaluable for your research, adding depth and evidence, and giving you the chance to uncover new knowledge and make new connections.
  • You can search across thousands of descriptions of archive collections held in over 260 UK archive repositories
  • You can locate all relevant sources for a research topic and bring them together intellectually in order to get a good sense of what is available, and how separate collections may releate to each other.
  • The Hub can save a huge amount of time compared to searching the individual websites of repositories.
  • You can uncover unexpected sources held in unlikely places
  • Many collections are only described on the Archives Hub

What sort of archives are on the Hub?

  • The Hub includes descriptions of research papers, correspondence, diaries, log books, photographs, sketches, business records, minutes, annotated books, cuttings and ephemera. It also includes digital archives, and often links to images and other digital content.
  • Types of archives which you can discover include
    • the archives of people, such as writers, scientists, artists, and politicians.
    • the archives of corporate and institutional bodies such as banks, breweries, universities, manufacturers and theatres.
    • the archives of groups and societies such as charities, pressure groups and religious groups.
    • the archives of events, such as theatre performances, conferences, exhibitions and expeditions

What sort of archives are not on the Hub?

  • The Archives Hub does not really represent datasets, such as economic and social datasets created through surveys. These sort of data sets may be found through the UK Data Archive.
  • We do not have many local authority archives, so we do not focus on things like family estate papers and parish registers.
  • The descriptions we have are those that our contribuors choose to provide, but many contributors do have a substantial amount of their holdings described here.

Searching Tips

The main search box enables you to get started by simply typing a word or phrase. With archives, the search terms you choose are important. Too broad and you may get a large number of more general results. Too specific and you may miss vital collections. It is really important to try different search terms, as otherwise you may miss signfiicant collections.

Searching by title, creator, name or subject can be more specific, but bear in mind that your search term (e.g. 'john ruskin', 'child protection' or 'russian literature') may not be included as a title or subject.

You can explore through the browse option, where you can retrieve an alphabetical list, e.g. you can see all the results around 'agriculture' including 'agriculture--england' or 'agriculture--history'.

You can also use the 'Subject Finder' where you can see a list of related subjects (subjects that most frequently come up in the same collections).

You can select just one repository from the drop-down list on our search page. If you do not specific a search term, you will get all of their holdings

Think of search strategies - think in terms of different search terms, and combinations of search terms, that represent your subject area.


Russian literature - try various names, such as Nabokov or Tolstoi, and try 'russia' and 'writers'. You can use 'russia*' for both Russia and Russian. If you find that a repository holds significant collections (e.g. The University of Leeds) then you may like to just try searching their holdings, to see whether it is worth visiting their archive. Go to the 'Search' page and change 'All Repositories' to 'University of Leeds' and then add your search term.

Child welfare - try 'childhood', 'child health' and 'child care' and you could also try 'adolescents' or 'health policy' or 'children' and 'care'. If you search for 'child labour' you might also want to try 'child labor' (sometimes American spelling is used for subjects). Try searching specifically for subjects, which is useful for finding particularly significant collections, but remember that collections may not have been catalogued with the subject that you choose. Use our 'Explore' page to try our subject finder, which will find related (and sometimes unlikely) subjects, e.g. 'rights of the child' and 'parenting'.

Womens Rights - try 'suffrage', 'womens organisations', 'gender' and 'discrimination', social inequality' and so on. Searching by 'phrase' will be more specific, e.g. phrase="womens rights" will only find the terms where they are adjacent. Remember that there may be archives relevant to your topic that do not include the term 'womens rights'. This is why it is important to try other terms. You can always try 'women' as a keyword, or subject, and then add another search box, and type another keyword, such as 'education' or 'equality'. Use our 'Explore' page to try our subject finder, which will find related (and sometimes unlikely) subjects, e.g. 'gender division of labour' and 'gender stereotypes'.


Join our mailing list

If you would like to join our users list, to receive updates about what is on the Hub and tips for using archives in your research, please visit our jiscmail list to sign up.

Find out more

If you are not sure what archives are or whether the Archives Hub might be of benefit try:

Using Archives: A Guide for the Inexperienced

Drawing of a sailboat

Sail forth with out simple guide to introduce archives, giving you information on finding archives, visiting repositories, working with archives and how to read archive descriptions