Developing our academic research offer

The collections held at The National Archives chart the intersection of government, citizen and wider society, from state formation and sovereignty to modern diplomatic relations. They define who we are, and have been, as a nation and society, and map our interaction with the wider world.

This means our records are vital in providing a context for the discussions and disputes that take place in the present day, both nationally and internationally.

To enable our collections to contribute to these conversations, we need to unlock the valuable insights that they hold. However, from the shift to digital to demonstrating the impact of records, there are huge challenges facing archives.

The National Archives has launched five cross-cutting research priorities, as we respond to both the challenges and opportunities that we face as an archive.

With over 11 million records in our collection and an increasing number of digital records accessioned each year, The National Archives’ research priorities place the shift to digital at the centre of our research interests and challenges as we seek to innovate our practice and unlock our collections to reach new audiences.

The research priorities aim to uncover new methodologies, theories and technologies in five core areas:

  • rethinking the record
  • people, place and rule
  • risk, uncertainty and trust
  • openness, access and use
  • impact, value and affect

To help us answer our research questions, we would like to work collaboratively across disciplines and sectors to respond to these research challenges. Bringing together the skills of the historian, archivist, conservator, digital humanist and computer scientist (to name but a few), we hope to innovate around the archive and transform practice and public understanding.

At The National Archives, we conduct pioneering research ranging from historical scholarship to conservation, and we have begun to collaborate with academic partners in new fields.

The EPSRC-funded project ARCHANGEL is a collaboration between the University of Surrey, The National Archives and the Open Data Institute, investigating the potential of blockchain technology for ensuring trust in the digital public record.

Similarly, in partnership with the Department for Computer Science at City, University of London, we held a series of digital experimentation workshops exploring data visualisation techniques that could unlock new insights from our crowdsourcing project Operation War Diary.

Our research priorities seek to take this further and broaden our collaboration with new academic partners in order to truly innovate around the archive. One way we are facilitating this is by creating a new dedicated space for research at our site in Kew.

Our recently launched Research Hub is available to our long-term research partners, doctoral research students and staff at The National Archives undertaking their own research. The space provides an environment to innovate, experiment and reflect on research conducted.

If you are interested in hearing more about our research or would like to collaborate with us on any of our research priorities, please contact the Research team or visit our research and academic collaboration webpages.


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