What is Discovery?

Discovery is The National Archives’ catalogue. It provides a way to explore archival collections from The National Archives and more than 2,500 archives across the UK.

Discovery holds over 22 million historical government and public records, of which nine million are digitised and available to download. From the Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, our own collection includes paper and parchment, electronic records and websites, photographs, posters, maps, drawings and paintings.

Discovery has been designed to host, search and display the many different databases and datasets held both at The National Archives and other archives. It provides a one-stop shop for information that could previously only be found across a number of sites. Discovery is a robust and integrated system that manages current and future data and storage needs, along with a consistent and seamless user experience.

Our blog posts describe in detail how we approached the design and development of Discovery, and how we used customer research to help us in this process.

An integrated service

Discovery has replaced and integrated the following services previously hosted by The National Archives:

  • The National Archives’ catalogue, a service to present catalogue metadata
  • DocumentsOnline, a service to present and give access to digitised records
  • Person search, a search tool to find people within our digitised records
  • Electronic Records Online, a service to present and give access to born digital records
  • MyPage, user account service for our website

A single point of access

Discovery now provides a single point of online access to catalogue and organisational data from across the archive sector and also incorporates the following data:

  • NRA, the National Register of Archives
  • ARCHON, directory of archives
  • A2A, Access to Archives
  • MDR, Manorial documents register

Search Discovery and see our Discovery help pages for search tips.

Accessing the content of the Manorial Documents Register

You can search the data held within the Manorial Documents Register (MDR) by using the new MDR homepage within Discovery. We are currently seeking feedback on this new service. Please let us know what you think using the ‘Send us feedback’ link in Discovery.

New features, functionality and improvements

We are adding new features to Discovery on a regular basis to improve functionality and fix any bugs and glitches from earlier releases. In recent releases, we have added the following:

  • An extra 10 million records: including data from National Register of Archives, Manorial Documents Register, Access to Archives and ARCHON
  • A completely new search engine with new custom search logic
  • A new and responsive look and feel across Discovery, including the homepage
  • The ability to restrict searches to The National Archives and The National Archives’ digitised content on the homepage
  • The ability to switch between the three main data types – the records themselves (records), those that made them (record creators) and where they are held (archives) – all in one place
  • Improvements to downloading results, filters, sorting and sign in
  • Browse for main data types – records, record creators and archives
  • Expanded advanced search functionality to reflect new datasets and feedback requests such as new date search features
  • The release of the API with guidance published on Github

To receive regular updates on new additions and developments to Discovery, sign up to our free enewsletter or follow @UKNatArchives on Twitter.

Send us your feedback

We would like our users to continue to provide feedback on Discovery, particularly as we will continue to develop it and add new functionality.

To provide general feedback on Discovery, please use the ‘send us feedback’ link found on Discovery or email us.