PAST Introduction to Archival Research
PAST Introduction to Archival Research

PAST Introduction to Archival Research

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The National Archives

Bessant Drive

Richmond, United Kingdom

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The National Archives holds one of the largest collections in the world, containing over 11 million historical government and public records. From Domesday Book to the Leveson Enquiry, our records offer students a myriad of untapped research opportunities across a wide range of time periods and disciplines. 

With so many options, however, getting started in the archives can be a daunting prospect. Many students have questions which they are too afraid to ask. How will I know where to go? What do I need to bring with me? How do I find records for my research? How do I order documents? Do I need to use gloves? How can I be sure I'm not wasting my time? 

It can often feel like you're the only one who doesn't know what you're doing, but it's not true!

To demystify the research process The National Archives has developed a programme of Postgraduate Archival Skills Training, PAST, providing students with the key skills and knowledge needed to undertake academic research using the archives.

This introduction day will explain how to get started with archival research, the importance of knowing the history and structure of a collection to navigate the records, and how to make the most of your time on site.

Sessions include an introduction to using Discovery, our online catalogue, a tour of the archives, and a display of some of the iconic documents in our collection.

Students will also have the opportunity to identify, order, and view original documents for their research, guided by our record specialists.

For further details, please see the programme below.

This event is aimed at third year undergraduate and postgraduate students. Registration is £15, including refreshments on arrival and lunch.

If you have any questions or for more information, please see our website or email the team at 


09:00   Registration & coffee

09:30   Welcome and introductions

09:45   About Archives

  • What is an archive?
  • Introduction to The National Archives
  • Other key collections

10:45   Break

11:00   Archival Skills

  • Archival skills explained and the problems of archival research
  • Preparation: how to make the most of your time in an archive
  • Introduction to Discovery, our catalogue, and other online resources

12:30   Lunch

13:15   Reader Registration

  • Opportunity to register for a reader's ticket

13:30   Tour

  • Tour of the reading rooms & library
  • Document ordering

14:15   Break

14:30   TNA Records and Document Display

  • Introduction to the records held at The National Archives
  • Display of important and iconic documents 

16:00   Reading room practical

  • Opportunity to view and handle a document relevant to your research assissted by our records specialists.

16:45   Round-up discussion and questions

17:00   Close

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The National Archives

Bessant Drive

Richmond, United Kingdom

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