The year of the blog

It has been one year since we launched The National Archives’ blog. From the start, our writers and staff have taken a fresh look at a wide range of subjects. Our 223 posts have ranged from information management in the movies to personal stories of the First World War and Titanic, from maps to UFOs. With over 60 published authors from around the organisation, we seem to relish the chance to tell the stories of our work. And people seem to want to read them too – with around 10,000 visitors a month.

"Motor Manufacturing" by Clive Gardiner for the Empire Marketing Board

"Motor Manufacturing" by Clive Gardiner for the Empire Marketing Board (ref CO 956/258)

So apart from that, why do we do it? For three reasons. First, The National Archives is doing some of the most interesting work around on a whole lot of issues. Our aim is to bring some of this to the people who matter – the users, readers and researchers. We certainly haven’t always been perfect but it is all the more important that we get feedback from users to make our services as good as they can be. Second, because of the financial situation, the best way to get this feedback is not through expensive surveys or focus groups, but through the web and social media. And, third, our role is to bring the most interesting public records and information to light, objectively, and let others discuss them.

So this post is an opportunity for people to feedback on what they’re interested in – is there anything you’d like us to cover in the future? (excepting, of course, your own personal family history!)


  1. Kathryn says:

    Congratulations on one year of the blog – here’s to many more! My eye was immediately drawn to the image on this blog post and it was a lovely surprise to see it’s an art work by Clive Gardiner as he was the brother-in-law of Lionel Robbins, whose papers I’m currently cataloguing at LSE – archives are a small world indeed!

  2. Dave King says:

    Looking back on your first year, I have found the blog both informative & entertaining, and look forward to it continuing.

    Thinking of the 2nd & 3rd aims that you mention (ie using social media to make effective use of resources & sharing information about records) prompts the following thoughts:
    – Is there an opportunity to invite people from outside of The National Archives to contribute posts on topics/records of interest?
    – In the context of sharing of specialised knowledge of particular record types, has there ever been any consideration of creating something like an on line forum to share knowledge, which should help to take some of the load off TNA resources?
    – Following on that theme of knowledge sharing, is there any progress on the incorporation of user contributions into Discovery? While tags have a place, their value is limited, and it has always struck me as a backward step to shut down Your Archives before the user contributions were enabled in Discovery?

  3. David Matthew says:

    I think that more blogs are needed on the most interesting records that have not been publicised and in particular those that have not been highlighted by TNA would be useful. The problem can often be that the records have not been highlighted because they are hard to find in the Catalogue/Discovery. I do think that some blogs do not it seeems to me to be ‘neutral’ in tone, the UFOs being an example and there is a need for opposing views. There are few blogs on subjects that are currently ‘hot potatoes’ and the way Government works and how Government has dealt with the issues before.

    The thing which I think is an issue is blogs that just show TNA and its projects which are often of a limited value to most researchers and more for record professionals.

  4. Oliver Morley says:

    Thanks for the positive comments – I’m glad that people are enjoying it. On the question from Dave, we’d definitely like external contributors on the blog, and that’s something you should expect to see more of over the year. Regarding more opportunities to contribute on Discovery, it’s not in our current plans, but I’ll feed it back in and we’ll see what we can do.

    On David’s points, the UFOs post was from an external contributor. If you look at David Clarke’s post, however, you’ll see he was scrupulous to focus on what the records tell us. And he was clear that the records alone give no evidence for an extra-terrestrial origin. People are of course welcome to use other evidence/ surmise to conclude otherwise.

    Continuing the evidence theme, I think it’s fairly clear that we are capturing themes that people find interesting. I’d like to do more ‘hot potatoes’ but we adhere to the Civil Service Code, so we keep a delicate balance.

  5. […] year since we launched our blog with a post from Chief Executive and Keeper, Oliver Morley. In his latest post, he discusses our reasons for blogging and asks what you would like us to cover in the future. You […]

  6. Justin Nash says:

    In response to a point made by David Matthew about online forums to offer expertise/help with records and points related to historical research, what about the following as an idea:

    The National Archives could offer the opportunity for records to be tagged with a link to forums such as the Great War Forum

    and WW2 Talk (I know there are many others) which without being specifically endorsed by the National Archives are in effect the ‘Big Society’ in action when it comes to sharing expertise and are very welcoming to giving help to those newly researching a topic/an ancestor.

    It would still be useful if you could contact someone like William Spencer for help before visiting the archives, but with the sheer number of questions the kind of help desk approach where you post a query and a National Archives expert answers is unlikely. This approach would put together crowdsourcing (without the National Archives having to pay for/manage the forums) and groups of experts/enthusiasts who can help. I know that the forums can be found via a Google search, but many newbie researchers would not know where to look and it would make the National Archives site into something of a gateway site for accessing free historical expertise/help open to all of the public.

  7. Kate Venables says:

    I also was pleased to see the Clive Gardner image used in this blog. I found it in the ‘Images for Academic Publishing’ database and was immediately struck by the strength of the image. So much so, that I asked Oxford University Press to approach you to use it as the cover of a forthcoming edited book ‘Current Topics in Occupational Epidemiology’. It’s not the sort of book which gets a lot of readers! But the National Archives image is on the OUP website and will be on the tables of a few bookshops, so I hope this means a few more people get to see it – Kate

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