The Archives Hub is a Jisc service providing a gateway to thousands of the UK’s richest archives. Launched as a ‘proof of concept’ project in 1999, to bring together searchable descriptions of archives for UK education and research, the Hub moved into service in 2000. Since then the Hub has grown to include:
* around 270 contributing repositories
* over 27,000 collection-level descriptions
* more than 450,000 lower-level descriptions
Archives Hub descriptions comply with ISAD(G) and indexing standards, and descriptions are stored in Encoded Archival Description (EAD).
Many of our contributors are from the UK Higher Education community, but we have a growing number from other sectors, including: business, charity, libraries and museums, cathedrals and local authorities, diversity that we are keen to build on.
A time-saving discovery service for researchers
As a national discovery service, the Hub continues to be heavily used by all sorts of researchers, including academics and students, but there has been a substantial increase in usage by and enquiries from archivists, library, museum and Government based professionals, local historians and the general public.
We recently published the results of our annual User Satisfaction Survey. The results highlight the importance of providing a comprehensive service and demonstrate how the Hub saves researchers’ time in discovering archives held across the UK. The survey revealed that 42% of users visited an archive as a result of using the service. Survey comments have included:
“I most value that it is comprehensive, free, and accessible worldwide. I plan research trips to the UK from the US using it.” (2015 survey)
“You can search across collections! Not just a single repository. And I don’t need to try and figure out how the various catalogues of the repositories work. It’s a unified look and usage across many collections.” (2014 survey)
Survey summaries are available at: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/value/.
Benefits for archivists
Aiding discovery of archives and collections
Contributing to the Archives Hub allows archives to become part of an internationally-recognised, high-profile cross-searching service. For some smaller archives, adding their descriptions to the Hub has enabled them to make their collections discoverable online for the first time.
We recently conducted an impact survey of our contributors to find out their experiences of the benefits of wider participation, exposure, evidence of impact and benefits of being part of the Hub. For 44% of respondents, the Archives Hub offers the only online interface to their collections and feedback included:
“Before using the Hub our enquiries were mostly associated with [those] that knew about the archive…[Now] we have been contacted by a different audience, undergraduates and researchers unaware of our holdings.” – Research institute
“Contributing to the Archives Hub increases the number of collections catalogued online, leading to more users, leading to more impressive stats for fundraising. On this basis, Archives Hub is highly important in the strategic development of our service.” – Museum archive
The survey results are available at: http://www.archiveshub.ac.uk/documents/ImpactSurvey2014.docx).
Exposure to search engines
All Hub descriptions have their own identifiers – a unique reference giving them their own web address. This enables bookmarking of content, facilitates linking and enables exposure to Google and other search engines. The total page views per month are consistently above 700,000 (excluding robots), with between 10,000 and 20,000 searches per month. We provide Google Analytics reports to contributors to help them monitor the number of viewings their descriptions receive.
“We know that overseas enquirers are discovering the collections – this can only be via the Archives Hub” – HE archive
Inclusion in the Archives Portal Europe
Every Hub contributor can be part of the Archives Portal Europe .The Archives Hub performs the role of Country Manager for the UK, supporting the contributing institutions and in addition, contributing data on behalf of institutions and organisations. APE brings together description of archives for almost every European country, providing another opportunity for UK archives to become globally recognised.
It is the intention to submit descriptions of digital materials held on the Archives Hub to Europeana, the cultural heritage portal (http://www.europeana.eu/portal/), through APE; a good example of interoperability in practice, where one description is used in three different services.
EAD Editor and free training
As an alternative to exporting their descriptions to us from Calm, Adlib and other systems, many contributors use the Hub’s EAD Editor to submit descriptions. This is useful if you want to create descriptions from scratch, or want to create them using text taken from elsewhere.
We also offer free training to contributors and potential contributors, with a focus on using our EAD Editor.
“The [Hub] editor allowed us (and continues to do so) to easily create a description and publish it online with pretty little fuss!” – Museum archive
Promotion of contributors’ collections
We produce monthly features, some written by the Hub team, some by our contributors. The features showcase archives and they rank well in Google searches, receiving over 120,000 views annually. Recent features have included:
– Continuity of Care – The Royal Scottish National Hospital.
– The Twelve Days of Christmas – archives style!
– Engineering and innovation during the First World War
Tweeting and blogging
We use Twitter to engage with archivists, researchers and the wider community, as well as to promote new contributors and collections. Our blog is mainly aimed at the archive and information professional community and focuses on discovery, technology and the web.
Current projects and plans for the future
Exploring British Design, an AHRC innovations project
We’re currently working with The University of Brighton Design Archives on an exciting project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, ‘Exploring British Design’. The project will explore Britain’s design history by connecting design-related content in different archives. A collaboration between researchers, information professionals, technologists, curators and historians, the aim is to give researchers the freedom to explore the depth of detail held in British design archives. More details at here.
New platform and improvements to the EAD Editor
A major project over the next year or so will be our move to a new software system. We’re also working on revising the EAD Editor, including building in more validation and enabling administrative access, so that contributors can see the status of their data at the various stages of processing.
Want to know more?
Contributions are welcomed from institutions and organisations in all UK sectors who hold collections of value to education and research. Contributing to the Hub is free. Do contact us if you would like to know more or if you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you! (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Development and Outreach Officer
Archives Hub, Jisc