One of the most daunting parts of completing a Master’s or doctoral degree can be the pressure to find original primary source material to research and write about. In addition, finding out which institutions hold relevant archival material, especially if it is hidden away in smaller museums or archives, can be difficult.
The Archives Hub is a database that allows you to search across the collections of over 250 institutions across the United Kingdom, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Library and the Imperial War Museum. The Archives Hub is a member of Archives Portal Europe, a larger organization that provides joint access to archival material across Europe.
The database is searchable by keyword, title, creator, name or subject if you are searching for material on a specific topic. Alternately, users can explore the archives by browsing lists of material held by a specific institution, grouped under certain subjects or limited to a specific region.
After typing ‘textiles’ into the subject finder, I am immediately presented with a list of 639 items relevant to my topic. Grouped under narrower subjects, the results range from 12 different holdings on the hosiery industry to a collection of correspondence from the costume historian James Laver.
For every holding catalogued in the database, there is a description of the material, including where it is held, the corresponding reference number, the dates of creation, a physical description and the conditions for access. In addition, every description contains a link to contact details for the institution where the respective material is held, simplifying the communication and appointment making process for researchers.
The website has also compiled many useful resources and guides for researchers, particularly those new to using archival material. The hub, which is maintained by a team of staff based at the University of Manchester, is a valuable resource to all fashion historians at the postgraduate level and beyond who are searching for archival material to research. The Archives Hub will not eliminate the necessary hours spent sitting in a study room or archive looking through piles of documents – but it will simplify the search process, encouraging further use of and enabling greater access to archival material held at museums, universities and other institutions.