Man looking at a report

There are around 2,000 archives services in the UK. These archives support and sustain research in every branch of knowledge. Here you will find links to websites and reports providing key sector statistics.

What are archives?

Archives are generated by individuals, families, businesses or institutions through every day life. They tell the story of our past, showing us and future generations how we came to be what we are as individuals, as communities and as a nation. They include:

  • manuscripts
  • books
  • photographs
  • maps
  • plans
  • sound and moving images
  • digital records

Where are archives?

Archives are preserved in the national archive institutions, local authority archive services run by local government, universities, libraries and museums. Some businesses and charities maintain and provide public access to their archives, as do some private and specialist institutions. A list of these bodies and their contact details can be found in the ARCHON Directory. The National Register of Archives lists the archives they hold.

Discovery will replace these resources in summer 2014, providing a single point of online access to catalogue and organisational data from across the archive sector. While this resource is being developed, you can try it out and search for records held by other archives using the Discovery beta service.

Interesting sector statistics:

  • 96% of visitors to archives said the service was 'good' or 'very good' (PSQG 2011)
  • 5% of adults visited archives in 2010/11: including visitors to online services 11.6% (DCMS Taking Part Survey)
  • There are just over 1,000 linear km of records in UK local authority archive services (CIPFA 2010/11)
  • UK universities hold over 120 linear km of archives (The National Archives survey 2008)
  • 3,180 volunteers worked in local authority archives in 2010/11, contributing an average of nearly 80 hours each (CIPFA)
  • Net revenue spending on archives in UK local authorities was just over 81 pence per person per year in 2010/11 (CIPFA)
  • Local authority archives receive around 750,000 remote enquiries each year and over 30 million visits to their websites (CIPFA 2010/11)
  • There are around 24 million visits to The National Archives' website per year, 26% of them from outside the UK

Facts and figures can also be found on our About us page.

Useful websites and recent reports

Survey of Visitors to UK Archives 2011 (PDF, 0.97Mb)

Self-assessment survey results from 2007 to 2010

In 2007, The National Archives initiated a self-assessment performance measurement programme for local authority archive services. The programme is being designed to provide a measure of overall service quality.

The self-assessment programme has now concluded and is in the process of being superseded by Archive Service Accreditation. Accreditation is being rolled out in a phased process until 2017. The information provided below has been retained to ensure that evidence from self-assessment remains accessible until the accreditation process is fully active.

The questionnaire, guidance notes and results of the 2010 self-assessment survey are available below. The results for 2007 and 2008 can also be found below.

To give services time to introduce improvement plans and for them to take effect, a full self-assessment was not carried out in 2009.

Self-assessment questionnaire 2010 (XLS, 0.14Mb)

Self-assessment guidance note 2010 (PDF, 0.25Mb)

Results for self-assessment survey 2010 (XLS, 0.04Mb)

Results for self-assessment survey 2008 (XLS, 0.04Mb)

Results for self-assessment survey 2007 (XLS, 0.00Mb)

This page contains PDF, XLS files. See plug-ins and file formats for help in accessing these file types.