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The National Archives Labs

Our new Discovery service

We have recently released the beta version of our Discovery service, our new record search.

Discovery is an innovative and easily usable way for you to explore our collection. This is a first release, which we will continue to develop, so it will be some time before it replaces the existing Catalogue and DocumentsOnline system.

There is a handy browse facility, by government department, which is designed to be much clearer than the browse facility in the existing Catalogue. By searching a phrase or keyword, a list of results is displayed clearly. You can click through to a particular record where the full description is given along with an immediate option to order a digital or printed copy. Far more information is provided upfront compared with the current search, where it may take several clicks before arriving at a page where your search term is visible.

Another enhancement is the option to refine the search by subject, date and/or collection, enabling you to filter your results with ease. A unique feature of the service is the ability to display search results on a map. Geo-referencing our records is a huge task, and there is a long way to go, but it paves the way for opportunities to use our data in new and varied ways in the future.

Technically the system is very different from our existing Catalogue. The benefit of this new architecture is that it can accommodate the addition of other applications with relative ease and grace; we are planning to add our DocumentsOnline and Image library systems later this year. The current Catalogue is operating at its maximum capacity and is growing at several hundred thousand entries a year, so we need a service that can grow with it.

This tool has been designed with users, for users. We need your feedback on the service as we have plans to develop it and add new features over the next few months. Do try out our new Discovery service and let us know what you think works, what doesn’t work, and what can be improved – your thoughts are extremely valuable to us.

Director of Technology and Chief Information Officer – David Thomas

As a senior archivist and records specialist at The National Archives, David’s career has focused on developing access to archives and information in both government and the archive sector.

David is responsible for information technology services at The National Archives, and is leading on the major cross-government project to develop a shared service for preserving digital records.

Comments (5)

  • WILLIAM GORDON

    LABS HAS LISTED PRO 30/12A. THIS SHOULD BE PRO30/22/12A IT CAN BE CONFUSING AT THE BEST OF TIMES TRYING TO FIND THINGS, I DO KNOW SITE IS EXPERIMENTAL HOPE THIS HELPS.

  • Bob Douglas

    The results seem to be largely missing – compared to the old search

  • Roy Runham

    It helps a lot. Thanks

  • Barry Chinchen

    It causes error messages and closes down my e-mail on my computer, but works on the one in the Public Library

    The National Archives reply:

    We’re sorry you’re experiencing problems – please can you give any more information about what browser you’re using and, if possible, a screengrab or description of the error message you get? Thanks very much.

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