Using the Hub for your research

Archives bring history to life. 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?

Getting started using the Hub

Consulting Material

Visiting an Archive

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.
  • They were not created for research in the way that published sources may be. So, they shed a unique light on history because they are not retrospective or interpretive, but exist as a result of past events. For example, a series of personal correspondence from the 19th century may tell us about social conditions, political events, famous characters or economic developments at the time of writing, even if this was not the intention of the authors.
  • Archive collections are usually defined as materials brought together by a creator. The creator may be a person or persons or an organisation. This means one collection has a shared history and it forms an integral whole. For example, the archive of a business, or the archive of a writer or a family.

Why use the Archives Hub?

  • With thousands of descriptions of archive collections held in over 220 UK archive repositories, the Archives Hub provides an easy way to search many of the UK’s rich and varied holdings of primary sources.
  • The Archives Hub can be used to bring together archives about people, organisations, subjects and places. Often these archives are held in many different institutions across the UK, so the Hub provides a means to 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.
  • Repositories may have collections covering topics that you would not predict, e.g. a bank may have very valuable collections about empire and slavery, or the personal papers of one individual may contain correspondence from an unlikely author. It is important to be able to uncover these unexpected sources through a cross-searching service.
  • These unique resources can be of great value to your research, adding depth and evidence, and giving you the chance to uncover new knowledge and make new connections.

What sort of archives are on the Hub?

  • The Hub generally represents the sorts of collections you find within higher education, local authority, business and specialist repositories.
  • It includes research papers, letters, diaries, photographs, business records, minutes, annotated books and ephemera. It also includes digital archives, especially images.
  • 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 family estates.

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 increasingly have archives held at UK local authorities, but we do not represent these comprehensively, and we do not cover parish records, so you may find less sources than you might expect for things like family history and the history of domestic buildings.
  • We have collections that range in dates from the 6th century up to the present day, but the collections are essentially historical, as they are usually transferred to an archive once they become non-active for their original purpose, or non-current, so there is not so much material from the last 5-10 years.

Getting started using the Hub

Keyword searching

The quick search box enables you to get started by simply typing a word or phrase.

Searching titles, creators, subjects and names

You can use the drop-down box to select 'title' or another type of data to search across. This may mean you get more significant results.

Searching using a combination of terms

Our main search page enables you to search for a combination of words and phrases, and you can select the types of data you want to search, e.g. titles, subjects, names, places.

Searching the archives held at one repository

You can select just one repository from the drop-down list on our search page.

Browsing collections

We have a 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'.

 To get started with your searching, visit the search page.

Email list for users of the Hub

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 to sign up.


The Archives Hub includes:

  • Descriptions of archive collections held across the UK
  • A wide range of subjects - arts, humanities, social sciences, science, technology, health, life sciences, etc.
  • Mainly descriptions of physical archives, but some digital content
  • Descriptions of personal and family archives; archives of businesses and organisations
  • Descriptions of collections of materials such as correspondence, personal letters, diaries, research notes, notes for books and articles, business records such as contracts and financial records, newspaper cuttings, photographs, ephemera such as pamphlets, postcards and advertisements

The Archives Hub does not include:

  • Datasets (e.g. raw data for social science research)
  • Descriptions of books and journal articles (published sources) other than those specifically kept within an archive
  • Internet and email archives
  • The actual content of the archive; though it may include links to content where this is digital
  • Descriptions of all archives held in the UK (some institutions do not contribute their data, other archives are not yet catalogued)


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

"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. If the Hub was unavailable, it would have a profound impact on UK archival research in general - such research would be increasingly rare" Lecturer, Loughborough University

"An incredible resource for the researcher looking for materials relevant to their subject." Academic researcher

"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