Call for participants: Making meaning in archives

How do you make meaning in archives? Find out by taking part in a research study with The National Archives and City, University of London, on how users create meaning when using archives.

What: Making meaning in archives
Where: The National Archives, Kew
When: Various dates in November and December 2019

Digital technology is profoundly changing what it means to be an archive. Increased online access has exposed archives to new users and created fresh opportunities for existing researchers. Yet while the means of interacting with archives has changed, archival processes have remained centred around paper-based record management practices.


As a PhD student, I am investigating what this digital shift means for how The National Archives’ users access and interpret archival information. My project explores how users’ understandings of archives – including both physical and digital records – shape and are shaped by their interactions with archives.

By better understanding these interactions, I hope to influence the design of archival systems that will be designed around the user, rather than the record. This ties in with ongoing work that is being carried out by The National Archives’ digital archives team, such as user-centric modelling.

This first stage of my research seeks to understand how users create meaning during their use of archives. It is hoped that this will establish key areas of interaction where users are creating meaning, and how they are incorporating archival information into their existing knowledge. This will help to design further areas of research that will build a rich picture of how users work with archives.

I am currently looking to recruit volunteers to take part in this first stage. Participation would involve you being observed as you carry out regular archival activities, with you describing what you are doing and why. To ensure that future systems cater to everyone, we need to observe as broad a range of archival use as possible – so please do get in touch if you would like to be involved!

Activities might include, but are not limited to:

• Using Discovery to locate records
• Photographing physical records
• Reading, writing, and note-taking
• Downloading and manipulating digital data sets

How long will participation take?

Participation will take around one hour.

When can I take part?

Anytime in November or December. If you would like to participate, please get in touch to arrange your choice of study date.

Am I eligible to take part?

You are eligible to take part if you are over the age of 18 and conducting research at The National Archives.

How do I take part or request more information?

You can contact me by emailing me directly.

As a thank you for taking part, participants will receive a £10 gift voucher.

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