Value of the Archives Hub
Contributing to the Archives Hub allows you to become part of an internationally-recognised, high-profile cross-searching service. The Hub provides researchers with access to over 2 million descriptions from over 350 institutions across the UK, and it is constnatly being updated with new descriptions. Increasingly it includes digital content, or links directly to digital content.
The Hub has good search engine rankings and receives well over half a million page views per month (excluding robots).
The diverse range of archive collections enables researchers to carry out broad-based subject searches and facilitates cross-disciplinary research, allowing disparate collections to be intellectually linked together, such as collections relating to the same person or organisation. The basic keyword search provides a simple approach to searching, and search options for collection titles, dates, subjects, people, places and organizations enable researchers to carry out sophisticated searching. Persistent URLs allow Hub descriptions to be bookmarked and used for education and research, and also exposed to search engines such as Google.
Our regular surveys provide a summary of our value, and they are used to help us plan developments.
- 2021 survey (PDF)
- 2020 survey (PDF)
- 2018 survey (PPT document)
- 2018 survey blog post
- 2015 survey (PDF document)
- 2014 survey
- 2013 survey (PDF document).
What do you most value about the Archives Hub?
Coverage and detailed descriptions of archives
Our surveys consistently shown that comprehensive coverage and detailed descriptions are important. This is both in terms of what is valued about the current service and what is most important in terms of development.
We therefore continue to prioritise attracting new contributors and processing data.
Information on how to access collections
Researchers want to be able access content. They 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. In 2020 we have changed our design, to make this more prominent.
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). This is a highly complex and technically difficult challenge, due mainly to the problems of data variation.
Links to digital materials
We are getting increasing numbers of digital images, and links to digital content. 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. We are also experimenting with machine learning for images.
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. This is a balance between simplicity and functionality, so that the serivce works for inexperienced users as well as researchers who regularly use archives.
Locating new material
We ask survey respondents whether they have found archives they probaby would not have discovered otherwise. Around 60-70% agree with this statement (see survey results, 2018 and 2020). This is a particularly important finding, as it indicates that the Hub plays an important part in archival discovery.
Visiting an Archive
According to our survyes around 25% have visited a repository following use of the Hub (obviously this does not hold for most of 2020). Many say they are likely to visit in the future. 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:
Recommending the service
Agree that the Hub is worth recommending to others:
"Every researcher should know about it!" (2020 survey)
"It is an excellent way of making our archival collections and reliable information about our organisation visible and accessible to a wider audience, and raises our profile on search engines. The team are extremely helpful, knowledgeable and keep contributors informed and involved in development." (2020 survey)
"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)