Value of the Archives Hub
Our annual surveys provide a summary of our value (there were no surveys 2016 and 2017 due to extensive re-engineering of the service). The summary below reflects the findings of the 2018 survey in particular.
You may like to read our blog post on the 2018 survey.
Archives Hub 2018 survey (PPT document)
Archives Hub 2015 survey (PDF document)
Archives Hub 2014 survey (PDF document)
Archives Hub 2013 survey (PDF document).
What do you most value about the Archives Hub?
1. Detailed descriptions of archives
Our surveys have always shown that detailed descriptions are important. In the 2018 survey this came top of users' priorities, with 82% of respondents rating it as highy important.
This is not someting that we can control, as we work with the descriptions that are provided to us, but we do have a sophisticated data creation tool that works particularly well for creating detailed hierarchical descriptions, and we have done extensive interface work to ensure that we display hierarchical descriptions effectively.
2. Extensive coverage
The Hub brings together information about archives held right across the UK, so the researcher can undertake effective cross-searches and more quickly and easily find relevant sources. It is a priority for us to continue to bring in new contributors and encourage more content. We now take in descriptions from archival management systems, which allows us to ingest at scale.
3. Information on how to access collections
It is clear that many users need help with next steps, once they have found relevant materials. Users are not always aware that archives are held across the UK and that they are both physical and digital. We provide a link to 'advice on accessing materials' on all our descriptions at every level of description.
4. Name search
Users are increasingly keen to search by names as a way into content. The Hub already has a name search within the standard descriptions, and we are working on introducing name records (i.e. biographical records) so that we can bring descriptions together under the names of individuals and organisations.
5. Links to digital materials
We are looking at ways to encourage our contributors to provide links to digital content and embed images into the Hub. We already have a substantial number of images, and we have a filter for digital content, but we are finding issues with images being moved and therefore no longer accessible. We are looking to address that in 2018/19. We have been looking at the new IIIF standard, and we are hoping to show how this can be used to make the most of digital archival content.
6. Subject search
We strongly encourage contributors to index descriptions using subjects from controlled thesauri, and this enables us to provide a fairly effective subject search. We also help users by providing subject-based ways into content, such as our monthly features and the 'canned searches' we provide from the homepage.
Other Survey Findings
Ease of use
We work hard to make sure the interface is user-friendly. Our recent survey showed that 70% of people who have used the Hub before find it easy or very easy to use.
Locating new material
In 2018 we asked survey respondents whether they had found archives they probaby would not have discovered otherwise. 59% agreed with this statement, rising to 70% for regular users. This is a particularly important finding, as it indicates that the Hub plays an important part in archival discovery.
Visiting an Archive
In 2018 we asked survey respondents whether using the Archives Hub had led to a visit to a repository. 25% had made a visit as a result of using the service, rising to 50% for regular users. So, contributing to the Hub makes a real difference in terms of increasing visits to repositories and use of archives.
Agree that the Hub saves researchers’ time:
2018: 67% (70% for regular users)
Recommending the service
Agree that the Hub is worth recommending to others:
1. More comprehensive
Top of the list according to all our user surveys is more content, so there is more likelihood of researchers finding archives relevant for their topic. Therefore, this is always seen as a top priority for us. We have over 330 contributors and we have been taking in descriptions at scale, to rapidly increase coverage.
2. Browse by name, place or subject
The importance of index terms is clear from our users' preferences for how they find information.
3. More digital content
One of our focus areas for 2018/19 is digital content: encouraging more images and looking at options for display.
"This site is invaluable to students and scholars alike in finding out where to begin archival work, or expand their knowledge of archives with relevant material to their research." (2018 survey)
"“The ability to search across archives without having to use each homepage for the same search is invaluable. Also as new archives put their catalogues online, the searches return new and interesting results.” (2018 survey)
"“Its quick, and often throws up ideas I've never heard of.” (2018 survey)
"I have recommended the Archives Hub to graduate students and to undergraduates doing independent research. This has had excellent results for at least one PhD student's project. I recommend the archive because it's big enough to have a reasonably high chance of finding something useful; the bigger, the better. " (2018 survey)