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UK online research archives

Images © Freeze-Frame Archive, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

Are you working on a research project about:

  • Arts, culture and media
  • War and politics
  • Science, health and the environment, or
  • Society and lifestyle?

The UK is a world leader in digital research collections and archives, and has embarked on a vast campaign to make these rich resources available online.

To help you during your studies, you can use many of these archives free-of-charge. There are currently over 100 collections, many of which are open access, and new ones are frequently being added.  If you are in some way affiliated to a UK research institution – if you’re a student at a UK university or college, for example – you’ll be able to access the entire set.

These archives cover centuries of developments in science and society, documenting major events, ideas, discoveries and dramatic changes following social and political upheaval.

If history is your subject, for example, then the Serving Soldier collection might be of interest. This includes biographies, photographs, diaries, posters, letters and still images from the wars in which Britain fought between 1899 and 1918.

Historic data can also be used to address future problems such as climate change. The UK Colonial Registers and Royal Navy Logbooks collection has digitised versions of hundreds of Royal Navy ships’ logbooks dating from the 1760s to 1923. This information is being used to reconstruct past climate change – scientific data which was not previously known.

These collections have been funded and made available by Jisc and UK universities. On the Jisc portal, click ‘Find a collection’ to search for material on a particular topic, or ‘Explore themes’ to browse subject areas. For collections marked with a padlock icon, ask your university or college if they subscribe – they will give you a username and password.

Images © Freeze-Frame Archive, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge; Nicholas Garland, cartoon in the Daily Telegraph 18/01/2007, courtesy of the British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent; Orphelia – Head study, John Everett Millais, from the Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery.