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Who uses archives?

It was once thought that archives were just for academics. This is no longer the case, if it ever was. People are using archives for all sorts of research now.

  • Students and academics still use archives when writing their dissertations, books or journal articles. It is not only history students - other subjects researched using archives include literature, art and economics, to name a few.
  • Television programmes like ‘Who do you think you are?’ have greatly increased the popularity of archives for family history research. It has been argued that this increases people’s sense of identity and well-being.
  • Local history researchers carry out research to gain a better understanding of the area in which they live.
  • Artists and designers have used art and design archives to inspire their work.
  • Enthusiasts visit archives to find out more about their hobbies. For example people who are interested in travel or engineering might use shipbuilding, Post Office or railway collections.
  • Businesses use archives for marketing purposes. Major business archives include:
  • Solicitors, town planners, developers and architects use archives when considering how to manage the built environment, restore buildings or plan new ones.
  • Journalists often use archives to research their stories or obtain copies of archival documents to illustrate their stories or obituaries.
  • Records relating to politics are usually ‘closed’ (unavailable to researchers) for a certain amount of time but once they are made available to the public, they can often influence our views of previous governments. One example of this is the Hillsborough inquiry.
  • Archives can even be used as evidence in hearings on human rights violations, such as the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Africa).
  • Some people destroy archives, knowing their value as evidence or for social justice.

These are just a few groups of archive-users. The list could go on.

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