How can we discuss research, services and our plans?

Over the last couple of years we have been trialing an online community. We wanted to use it to engage with our online users and to gather feedback on our products and services, and we hoped that readers and researchers would also use it to discuss the matters that were important to them.

After a successful pilot, we opened up the community to everyone. Unfortunately, we had to close registration to new members soon afterwards due to excessive spamming, which saw valuable feedback overwhelmed by irrelevant and inappropriate comments. We have spent a lot of time and resource to try to prevent this but it has proved insurmountable. We have therefore reluctantly decided to close the community.

We are still committed to engaging with our online audiences, now more than ever before. We really want to hear your thoughts and ideas on how we can improve our online services. We need your help to gain a better understanding of how and why people use our website, how your needs change and how we can make it better.

We’ve listed a few ways below for you to keep in touch, but we’d also be really interested to hear about other channels you use and your thoughts on other ways we can discuss research, services and our plans.

Customer research

If you would be willing to help us test our products and services before everyone else, please sign up to our newsletter and tick the market research box. You will receive invitations to a variety of testing sessions, with no obligation to take part.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

We have a Facebook page and a Twitter profile where we answer enquiries and share news, events, blogs and record releases.

We also host Twitter discussions and Q&A sessions. In our last Twitter chat we discussed history months and diversity in archives. If there are any topics you think would make good discussion topics, please drop us a message in the comments below.

Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

User Forum

For those who visit our reading rooms at Kew we also hold regular User Forum sessions. Open to all, they provide the opportunity to keep up to date with developments at The National Archives. The forums consist of open discussions and updates from our management team and cover a wide variety of subjects.

Find out when the next User Forum is happening.

Connecting with other researchers

At our last Meet the Keeper session, one person suggested that we should provide a space for people to share details about their research, and to help researchers connect with each other. We think this sounds like a great idea, and Twitter thought so too. We’d love to know what you think, and what you would expect as part of such a service. We could look to do this on site and online if possible – which would you use?

We’d like to thank everyone who took part in the community – from feedback on Discovery to your thoughts on the commemoration of the First World War, your contributions were invaluable. We hope we’ll still have these conversations, only in different ways and on different platforms.

10 comments

  1. David Matthew says:

    I think that whilst the engagement of online users should not be confined to online services and that there are quite a lot of people who don’t go online but go to Kew. The idea that researchers could talk to each other and may be some kind of research interests would help, sometimes you see other researchers looking at the same or similar files that you are. I would go for an online service but on site has some merit.

    As far as the Community went I did find the comments quite old and little used. I would add that as from April 2016 there will only be four Forums each year, the last one with the Ministry of Defence records review department was very interesting. On the issue of history months and diversity it does seem that TNA has the same sort of records and in my view there should be more variety and in my view having news items rather than blogs for Government releases doesn’t always help and I certainly would like to comment on some of them but can’t. I do think that TNA should reinstate the monthly list of releases as for example most people would be unaware of the release of files about Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

    There are quite a few subjects that are of interest to me, but maybe not to everyone like the 1975 EEC referendum and the contingency planning for a ‘no’ vote but I realise that Government rules might/probably would make that difficult. I think that subjects like the ‘Poll Tax’ which are more than just what Margaret Thatcher thought but the history going back to 1971. Mental health/illness is a subject that is only skimmed through as are diseases like HIV/AIDS where different aspects can be interesting and how the government responded or panicked or subjects where quite frankly they are strange/funny to our modern eyes.

    1. Laura says:

      Hi David, thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas, we will look into some of your suggestions. Best wishes Laura

  2. Jackie Speel says:

    There was a ‘Tea and Testimony’ event recently – perhaps there could be more such, with particular themes/central topics.

    What could the equivalent online versions be?

    1. Laura says:

      Thanks Jackie, lovely idea!

  3. Susan Gunning says:

    I find the National Archives very frustrating because on numerous occasions, I’ve found that they hold the record i’m looking for but it can’t be accessed on line. There’s nothing better than being able to visit in person but that is not an option for me. I wouldn’t mind paying a small fee to view records

    1. Laura says:

      Hi Susan, sorry to hear about your frustrations. We do offer a record copying service, which you can find out more about here: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/record-copying/
      You may also find it useful for a paid researcher to come to Kew on your behalf: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/paying-for-research/
      I hope that helps, best wishes with your research, Laura

  4. ernest treagus says:

    As I live in Australia a personal visit to the National Archives is not practical, so some other form of access is necessary.

    1. Laura says:

      Hi Ernest, thanks for commenting. Do you use any online forums or social media websites, that you feel would be good for this type of sharing and discussion? Best wishes Laura

  5. Brian Swann says:

    I think Facebook could be a very useful forum, especially for Americans and other members of the former British colonies. It has to form part of a continuing attempt to up-skill them in your resources. We run a very successful ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy) Facebook site and we now have over 10,000 members globally, so we have some appreciable experience of how these things can be successfully deployed.

    So certainly I can ask what the learning experiences have been in running such a large forum, but the key thing is almost always someone supervising the posts with the authority to block internet trolls or inappropriate discussions. There seems to be no way round this in the internet age. The mad, bad and dangerous to know will always be with us, like the poor.

    I think a significant priority should be to integrate the Descriptions that remain in the hard binders onto Discovery. There can be a wealth of additional material information there not present on Discovery which gives you a far better idea of what particular Classes contain and how they work. Maybe this is in the works, I am sure it will have been discussed before.

  6. Janet Pollard says:

    I think what many of us who can’t easily visit in person would like is for more records to be available online.
    We know you are adding more all the time but is there any way volunteers can help with this to speed up the process?

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