Finding Archives in Discovery

In the past few months The National Archives has replaced its old Catalogue with a new one, Discovery, which allows you to search for records held by us.

Now, we are working hard to incorporate information from other sources describing records held in archives elsewhere as part of the Finding Archives project. Finding Archives focuses on the National Register of Archives (NRA), Manorial Documents Register (MDR), ARCHON Directory, Access to Archives (A2A) and Accessions to Repositories. These services currently provide descriptive and access information about millions of records held in over 2,500 archives in the UK and overseas.

Our goal is to enable users to access this information alongside The National Archives’ content via a single easy-to-use interface in Discovery.

In a previous blog post, my colleague Sam Meunier told you a bit about the background to the project, and updated you on the progress we had made in testing several design concepts with our users.

Choosing a design

The new Discovery homepage with four tab search


Please note that all images in this blog post are preliminary designs – the look and layout may differ from the version we ultimately release.





Building a prototype

In addition to choosing a design for the homepage, we also had to develop and test concepts for other elements of the new system.



Current users of Discovery will be familiar with the options to filter results on the left hand side of the screen. These now include additional options specific to the Finding Archives services, especially the ability to filter by the archives where records are held.

The first tab will contain information relating to records held by The National Archives, but also archives elsewhere. For users who are just interested in The National Archives’ content, it will be possible to simply select that data. There will be a corresponding option to see results for a given archives service where data is present in Discovery. This will make Discovery a much more powerful research tool.

People and organisations

Creators of records can be filtered according to whether they are people or organisations, and filtered by place

The second tab will largely be populated by information from the National Register of Archives (NRA). The NRA organises information related to collections of records according to their creator, whether that is a person, a family, a business or an organisation (currently referred to as ‘Name Authorities’).




The prototype we have developed allows for easy filtering of record creators, with summary information of their significant collections. Arranging the results in a series of tabs, and the ability to add and remove filters on one screen means you will no longer have to rely on opening several different tabs or windows to access these key resources.

A clear design gives you all the information you need about a particular repository.

Archives directory


Each archives directory page will also enable you to explore relevant information derived from the NRA, A2A and Accessions data.

What’s next?

We know that Finding Archives in Discovery will require several iterations before it is ready to be released. However, we are currently working on releasing a prototype to our colleauges in the archives sector, to gather initial feedback on the new functions and features.

At the same time, we will be working to ingest and test data from the Access to Archives (A2A), Manorial Document Register, and Accessions to Repositories systems. Once these are included and searchable, we will have successfully migrated all the legacy data for this phase of Finding Archives.

When we have all the data in one place, we will also be looking into developing a new way for archives to contribute data to Discovery, enabling us to ensure that the service is comprehensive and up to date.

Please keep an eye on our blog for further updates in the coming months.