Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Using the Archives Hub and Archives Portal Europe

If you’re looking for archives which are not held here at Hull History Centre – an incredible thought I know, but it could happen – you might like to try searching on the Archives Hub (for collections in the UK) or Archives Portal Europe (APE) (for collections held across Europe, including the UK).

What are these Hubs and Portals?
The Archives Hub and APE contain descriptions of archives held by different institutions; there are over 280 contributors to the Hub and over 6700 contributors to APE. The majority of contributors are universities and specialist repositories. They provide copies of their catalogues in a format called Encoded Archival Description [EAD], which is machine-readable and therefore allows the user to search across catalogues from a large number of repositories at once. Catalogues from Hull University Archives, one of the partners in Hull History Centre, appear on both the Archives Hub and APE.

This is what EAD looks like behind the scenes:

and how it appears on your screen:

What will I find on the Archives Hub and APE?
Both of these websites contain descriptions of archive collections relating to thousands of individuals, families, businesses and organisations. You can browse by repository or index term, or search for a particular person, organisation or subject. This makes them particularly useful if you’re searching for primary sources for a thesis or dissertation, or if you’re not sure where the papers of a particular person or organisation might be. Bear in mind when searching on APE that archive catalogues from institutions outside the UK probably won’t be available in English.

What won’t I find on the Archives Hub and APE?
As most of the contributors are university and specialist repositories, the largest group of UK archives which you won’t find described are those which are usually held by local record offices. This would include for example parish records, court records, council and hospital records. This means that for a lot of family history research you may be better off using local record offices’ own catalogues or trying The National Archives’ Discovery catalogue ( You won’t find digitised copies of archives – the websites contain catalogues only.

How do I get started?
Both the Archives Hub and APE websites contain lots of help on searching, and they also have featured items if you want to have a browse. The Hub website is and the APE website is

Sarah Pymer, Assistant Archivist (HUA)

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