About Discovery

The National Archives holds over 11 million historical government and public records, one of the largest archive collections in the world. From Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, our collection includes paper and parchment, electronic records and websites, photographs, posters, maps, drawings and paintings.

Our old Catalogue, one of the first of its kind, provided a free online search facility for the collection, but had its drawbacks. A certain level of knowledge - whether of the subject matter or record series itself - was required to successfully search the Catalogue, which made it difficult for new users to find what they are looking for without assistance.
We have therefore developed a replacement system for the Catalogue: Discovery. Discovery makes it easier to search and use our collections for everyone, from first-time users to experienced researchers.

Go to Discovery.

Read our Frequently Asked Questions about Discovery.

Find out about the changes and updates we've made to Discovery following user testing and feedback.

What this means for online users

Discovery is now the only way to search our collections. Previously we released a beta (test) version of Discovery, which was made available for several months to allow users to provide feedback on the service to enable us to develop it further. Discovery features new ways to search our collection, in line with the raised expectations of today's web users. Discovery allows users to explore and browse our collection in new ways that do not require any prior knowledge of our collection.

Discovery was released initially to run alongside the Catalogue and our digitised document delivery service, DocumentsOnline. Discovery has now entirely replaced our Catalogue and our DocumentsOnline service. This makes it easier for customers to search for records and order digitised copies (if available), all in one place.

We are adding new features to Discovery on a regular basis to improve functionality and fix any bugs and glitches from earlier releases.

New features available

We've developed a feature to enable our users to enhance our collection by tagging our records. We have already explored different ways of doing this, both on our website and on other established social websites. We have published Foreign and Commonwealth Office photographs on Flickr as part of our World through a lens project, and invited users to add descriptions and geographic locations to images that we previously knew little about. We hope to eventually add this information to record descriptions in Discovery, making a distinction between official catalogue descriptions and user-generated content while allowing users the flexibility to describe records in new ways.

We have also added a browse feature to Discovery so that users can browse by hierarchy and browse by catalogue reference. Browsing enables a deeper understanding of how our records are arranged.

Find out about the latest updates we've made to Discovery.

To receive regular updates on new additions and developments to Discovery, sign up to our free monthly enewsletter or follow @UKNatArchives on Twitter, using the hashtag #TNADiscovery.