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Library Guides

Finding and Using Digital Archives during COVID-19: Finding digital archives - a list of resources

This guide covers how to find digitised and digital archives material at a time when many archives are closed for in-person visits, and how to critically examine what you find.

How to use this guide

There is no single website that you can go to in order to find digitised or born-digital archives. They are spread across an array of archive catalogues, content management systems and micro-sites.

The links below are by no means exhaustive. Most archives will have some proportion of material available digitally, usually predominantly image-based. The criteria for inclusion in this list are:

  • a significant amount or all of the collection is available digitally and remotely. 
  • text-based records likely to be of use to humanities students,

Although the collections have been grouped into subject areas to make this guide easier to use, many of them will support multiple strands of research. For example, medical records will also include a lot of information about social history, while arts collections are likely to overlap with LGBTQ+ history.

You can also find further links to digital resources on the History LibGuide

Social

Helen Keller Archive 

Helen Keller was was a feminist, a social activist, and a pacifist, as well as a prolific writer. She was also deaf and blind from the age of 19 months. Her digital archive includes correspondence, speeches and photographs, and is fully accessible to blind, deaf, deafblind, sighted, and hearing audiences alike.

Observing the 80s

Bringing together material from the British Library's Oral History Archive, the Mass Observation Project and the University of Sussex's ephemera collection, this educational resource covers issues such as the Poll Tax, AIDS and the Falklands Conflict.

Express & Star photo archive

Although a photograph collection, this archive has been included because of its comprehensive metadata and - unusually - scanning both the front and back of each photograph, allowing them to be used both as a document and as an image.

Spare Rib magazine

Famous women's liberation movement magazine which ran from 1972-1993. Please note that this digital resource many cease to exist after the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, due to its reliance on EU copyright legislation.

London's Screen Archives

Moving image collections from 70 organisations covering a huge range of topics, browsable by theme and borough, as well as searchable.

Polytechnic Magazines

Newsletters of the University's predecessor institution, the Regent Street Polytechnic. Covers life in London, sports, social and religious activities, alongside wider themes such as emigration and the British Empire.

British Library Oral History collection

Interviews with a huge range of people in a variety of industries and from different background, covering everything from food production to immigration. Not all interviews are online but there are clear subject guides detailing what is and isn't available.

Old Bailey Online

Transcriptions of court proceedings 1674-1913. Includes useful context information, such as essays on the reliability of the proceedings as a historical record.

Political

Modern Records Centre 

The Modern Records Centre at Warwick has a particular specialism in the papers of Trade Unions, and their digital collections include the journals from the Fire Brigades Union and the National Union of Railwaymen, as well as papers relating to General Strike, Easter Rising, Spanish Civil War and the Russian Revolution. They also hold the National Cycle Archive.

Divided Society (Ireland 1990-1998) 

Another resource from Linen Hall (see Arts), this brings together political publications and posters relating to the conflict and peace process. Access is free for anyone in the UK and Ireland, after registration, but there is a charge for accessing the site outside these geographical areas.

Brendan Duddy papers 

Archive of a key negotiator between the British government and the IRA, from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Gorrie collection 

 Political memorabilia relating to the Labour movement in Leicestershire in the period c.1889-1909

Georgian Papers Online

Material from the Royal Archives dating from the reigns of George I to William IV, including personal letters, diaries, account books and records of the Royal Household.

Sparrow's Nest

Digital library of anarchist and protest publications and ephemera from the Nottingham area.

Peterloo Massacre collection

Documents, books and newspapers relating to the Peterloo Massacre that took place in 1819.

Suffrage Collection

Material from the Women's Library collection, held at LSE. Includes newspapers, journals, pamphlets, leaflets and annual reports of different suffrage groups from the late 19th century to 1928

British Library Maps collection

Maps of the UK, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

See also Orwell Archive under Arts, the UK National Archives under Wartime, and Colored Conventions under International..

LGBTQ+

Anne Lister's diaries

Digitised copies of the coded diaries kept by the English landowner known as 'Gentleman Jack', recently the subject of a TV series.

Digital Transgender Archive

Bringing together digitised material from a huge variety of collections across the world, but with a focus on North America. The term transgender  is used to refer to a broad and inclusive range of non-normative gender practices.

See also David Wojnarowicz Papers, Tate Archive and Archives of American Art under Arts, Turing Digital Archive under Science and Engineering

Arts

Tate Archive 

Tate's archive collections document artistic practice in the UK from the late 19th century to the present day. They also cover topics such as wartime, LGBTQ+ identities and relationships, and the occult. 

Archives of American Art 

Papers of artists, galleries and individuals involved in the arts. Like the Tate collection, the papers cover a wide range of topics beyond the arts, such as immigration, education, LGBTQ+ identities and relationships, race and gender.

Linen Hall Library 

Digitised collections of literary manuscripts from authors based in Northern Ireland

Orwell Archive 

Notebooks, correspondence and manuscripts of author George Orwell, covering both his fiction and political interests.

Harry Ransom Center Digital Collections 

Includes huge numbers of literary collections from American, British and Irish writers such as Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as collections relating to magic and the circus.

​Vaughan Williams Memorial Library 

Archive of the English Folk Dance and Song society.

John Latham Archive 

British conceptual artist. Experimental digitsation site enabling users to search the archive through three different methods.

David Wojnarowicz Papers 

Polish-American artist and activist. His journals have been digitised, covering 1971 to shortly before his death from AIDS in 1992.

Circle in the Square Papers 

Held at the New York Public Library, this collection includes both administrative and production notes for this Off-Broadway theatre.

Her Noise Archive 

Website arising from a 2006 exhibition documenting music and sound in relation to gender. The website includes talks, performances and interviews that took place with and by creators as part of the exhibition.

Hip Hop Party and Event Flyers

From the Hip Hop collections at Cornell University. Covers years 1970-1989.

International

Sudan Archive

Held at the University of Durham, the collection predominantly covers the administration of the region from 1898-1955, but has since been expanded to include material up to the present day. The archive is primarily in English.

Endangered Archives Programme

Digitisation of archival material at risk of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration. The projects can be filtered by language, script, country and topic.

Brooke Archives

Digitisation of material relating to the Brooke family, known as the White Rajahs, of Sarawak, Malaysia.  Records are in English.

Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive

Hosted by the University of Texas, this comprehensive resource includes over 10 million images. There is detailed guidance on how to use the digital archive, as well as historical context for the records. Records are in Spanish. 

Arabian Gulf Digital Archive

Digitisation of documents from the UK National Archives relating to the Gulf region, hosted by The National Archives of the United Arab Emirates. Descriptions of the documents are searchable in English and Arabic, but the documents are primarily in English.

China Visual Arts Project Archive

The University's collection of over 800 Chinese propaganda posters have all been digitised and are available online, searchable in English and Chinese.

Colored Conventions

Digitisation of documents relating to nineteenth-century Black political organising in North America, from the 1830s onwards. Includes a great deal of contextual information and online exhibitions, as well as the records themselves.

New York Public Library Digital Collections

Huge resource of collections relating to the New York area. The collections are largely image based - photographs, maps and printed materials - and not all are accessible remotely. Some text-based collections which may be useful are:

Texas Digital Archive

Born-digital and digitised records from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Covers the general administrative functions as well as thematic areas such as World War I and the shot-lived Republic of Texas.

Papers of Sir Donald McLean

Key negotiator between the New Zealand government and Māori in the mid-19th century. The collection includes correspondence in both English and Māori, with transcriptions and translations provided of the latter.

Library of Congress Digital Collections

The Library of Congress is the national library of the United States and includes a broad range of collections covering American History, Politics, Arts and Social History. Highlights include:

The LoC's digital collectins also include a large number of Web Archives, which are discussed here.

See also British Library Maps collection under Political.

Health

Wellcome Library

Covering the history of medicine in the UK, the Wellcome Library should be your first point of call for researching health archives. Digital collections include:

The Retreat

Complete digitisation of the records of The Retreat private asylum, founded by the Society of Friends in 1796. The catalogue can be browsed on the Borthwick Archive and images are hosted by the Wellcome Library.

See also: UK National Archives and First World War Volunteers under Wartime and the Modern Records Centre under Political.

Science and Engineering

Darwin Correspondence project

Brings together Darwin's letters from multiple collections. Some are available digitally and some only as transcriptions.

Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy archive

Irish engineer who worked in Hawaii and San Francisco

Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics

Papers of 22 scientists and organisations, from the Wellcome and other collections, relating to both genetics and eugenics.

BT digital archives

Digitised documents from the 1860s-1970s. Includes administrative files and research reports.

Met Office archive

Historical weather data and administrative files.

Turing Digital Archive

Personal papers of Alan Turing, renowned World war II codebreaker.

Wartime

UK National Archives 

The UK National Archives holds the records of the UK government and civil service. Records available digitally are largely those of interest to genealogists, but will also be useful to researchers looking at wartime and immigration. They also include a large number of government datasets on topics as varied as AIDs, bat conservation and coastal surveys.

Cambridge Digital Library

Cambridge University's online collections include a wide range of material from arabic manuscripts to the papers of genetic scientists. They also hold several collections relating to the two world wars:

Second Air Division digital archive

Digitised material from the Norfolk Record Office relating to the Second World War.

First World War Volunteers

Database of index cards of WW1 volunteers through the British Red Cross. No option to browse the cards or filter via a dropdown menu so difficult to use for non-geneaological research, but possible with some speculative searching.

Archives de l'Inspection générale des camps d'internement

Records from the Archives Nationales in France relating to World War II.

See also Wellcome Library under Health, Turing Digital Archive under Science and Engineering

Administrative

Bank of England

Committee minutes, reports and Governors' diaries.

Sainsbury Archive

Digitised copies of JS Journal, Sainsbury's supermarket staff magazine 1946-2013

Found an additional source?

If you've found a great digital archive resource that you think might be useful to others, please email us and let us know!