Main functions and tasks of the departments within the Digital Directorate

FOI request reference: F0061596
Publication date: April 2020



Request & response
I would like to ask about the main functions and tasks of the departments of Digital Directorate in TNA. What are the main tasks of each department: Digital Services, Cataloguing and Taxonomy, Transformation Programme Subject Matter, Digital Archiving, Web Archiving, Legislation Services?

The main functions and tasks of departments within the Digital Directorate are as follows.

Catalogue & Taxonomy
The role of the Catalogue & Taxonomy department is to provide archival intellectual control through The National Archives Catalogue. Main areas of work:
• Standards for archival description, editorial development and data enhancement (including research and development into the application of new conceptual models and ontologies to archival catalogues)
• Provision of contextual descriptions around record creators, administrative and custodial histories for new record series (analogue and digital)
• Management of TNA’s collection management system (catalogue back office system)
• Operational workflow and release of catalogue data from new accessions, data enhancement projects and previously closed records
• Archival input into the development of new online services
• Leadership, monitoring and guidance for cataloguing projects at TNA
• Organisation of annual Catalogue Day conference at Kew
• Website cataloguing
• Taxonomy: curatorial development of the subject categorisation functionality   in Discovery
• Academic research engagement through the support or mentoring of external researchers/fellows/PhD students.

Digital Archiving
The role of the digital archiving department is to:
• Work with government departments to develop scalable approaches to records selection
• Support government departments in transferring selected records to The National Archives
• Long-term preservation and safe keeping of the digital archive
• Develop new services to enhance understanding, presentation and computational re-use of born digital records
The department is currently structured into the following services and projects (many members of the department contribute to more than one area):
• Digital Selection and Transfer
• Digital Preservation
• Digital Archiving Infrastructure
• Small-scale projects to research and explore technical options and approaches to contextualisation, presentation or enabling re-use of digital records.
• A team creating and teaching an introductory course on digital archiving to help build skills across the wider UK archives sector.
Digital Services
Digital Services are the service owners of our website including Discovery, our online catalogue. Our main tasks are to provide access to the catalogue and digitised records online.  We also work with other areas of The National Archives to provide the right online services to support our different audience types, including the UK Government, the Archives sector and the Education sector.  We also provide content and services relating to The National Archives events and exhibitions programme.
One of our key activities at the moment is Project Alpha, which is about The National Archives envisaging what we would create if we were to start completely anew with our website.  We believe archives are for everyone but we know that our online catalogue is vast and it can be easy for people to feel overwhelmed.  We’re building and testing a prototype – in public – for the future of The National Archives on the web, informed by user needs.  Importantly, Project Alpha is not intended to be an instant replacement for our existing website but instead suggests a vision of different, exciting, user-focused approaches we could take
Digital Service Assessments (Transformation Programme Subject Matter)
The role of Digital Service Assessments is to ensure that all our teams in Digital create and run great public services. We achieve this through a focus on
• User Research
• Users with accessibility and assisted digital needs
• Great design that meets the needs of all our users
• Understanding what success looks like for our users and measuring it
• Agile delivery
• Supporting UK Government technology principles and aligning with the UK Government Service Standard.
All new digital services or significant enhancements to existing services must go through a formal assessment process beginning at the end of the alpha stage of development, and at the end of the beta stage and before a service can formally go live online.
The current role that is responsible for digital service assessments is the Head of Digital Risk and Standards. There is a team of internal service assessors (subject matter experts) that assist. These are embedded across the separate departments in Digital and are not dedicated roles.
Legislation Services
The Legislation Services team is responsible for fulfilling The National Archives’ responsibilities for the publication of UK legislation, in print and online. This includes:
• The Maintenance and Operation of, the official public source of all legislation made by Westminster and the devolved administrations.
• Supporting legislation drafters, through the provision of a digital publishing service, legislation drafting tools, and the registration of new secondary legislation
• Aid legal certainty through the production of revised versions of legislation
In addition the Legislation Services department is responsible for the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes, managed through a concessionary contract. The Gazette is available both in print and at, and has been the official public record since 1665, publishing statutory notices about insolvency and wills and probate, as well as state notices including the Queen’s New Year and Birthday Honours.
Web Archiving
We provide two separate open-access web archive services:
1. The UK Government Web Archive, an archive of over 23 years of UK government online, made up of many “snapshots” of government websites and selected social media accounts.
2. The EU Exit Web Archive, contains multilingual documents, mostly from It is one of the ways that The National Archives is meeting the publishing responsibilities set out in Schedule 5 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (c.16).
The web archiving team, largely through our supplier of technical services, MirrorWeb Ltd:
• Develops and delivers services that meet the needs of our users.
• Identifies, captures, preserves, and provides access to UK government web resources on a rolling schedule and in response to events. This work includes developing approaches to archiving a variety of complex and emergent platforms.
• Ensures the highest possible quality of the archives through performing quality assurance processes on captured content.
• Sets and adapts access management rules, as required.
• Supports government departments and short-term bodies in archiving their web presence prior to content changes or website closures.
• Supports reuse of content in the archive through answering public requests and developing innovative research use into the collection.
• Works with peers in the digital preservation and web archiving communities to develop best practice for preserving online digital assets.