BrowseSearchInstitutionsSite mapHome



What is the AIM25 Project?

AIM25 home

What is the AIM25 Project?

Why is AIM25 useful for researchers?

What kind of material is covered?

What can these collections be used for?

Archival catalogues

Accessing the archives

How does AIM25 interact with other archival projects?

How has the work of the project been done?

How can researchers contribute to the project?

What is the AIM25 Project?

AIM25 is a project funded by the Research Support Libraries Programme (RSLP) to provide a web-accessible database of descriptions of the archives and manuscript collections of the principal colleges and schools of the University of London, of other universities and colleges in London and the surrounding area bounded by the M25 London orbital motorway, and of some of the royal colleges and societies of medicine and science based in London. The complete archival holdings of 49 institutions will be covered.

Why is AIM25 useful for researchers?

The project aims to make it much easier for researchers from a wide variety of academic disciplines to locate information about archival collections held in London and the M25 area, and indeed assist cross-disciplinary use of archives. It will also help users, including members of the public, plan their research by providing online access to details of archives held by the participating institutions, some of which have never previously been described or made available. You can search AIM25 descriptions in several different ways.

What kind of material is covered?

The project covers archival material. An archive collection (or 'fonds') refers to the records created or accumulated, at any date, by a person, family, or corporate body (e.g. a higher education institution or a business). Some large archives are made up of smaller units (or 'sub-fonds') which correspond to an administrative subdivision (e.g. a department) in the organization which created them, or 'series' of records which share the same form (e.g. minute books). Some archive collections are artificial, in that they were made up of materials brought together by being collected from various sources - rather than created - by an individual or organization. Archives come in a wide range of formats: as well as manuscript material, they may include, for example, photographs, maps, sound recordings and videos. However, printed material and artefacts are not included, unless they are associated with archival material within particular collections.

What can these collections be used for?

The collections cover a huge range of subjects. Archives held in the institutions covered by AIM25 fall into two categories: firstly, the archives created by that institution, documenting its history and development; and, secondly, collections which have been deposited at that institution, created by other individuals or organizations. Between them, the participating institutions care for some of the premier collections of archives in the country relating to anthropology, politics, law, economics, education, languages and literature, religion, military, social and cultural history and the history of science and medicine. Examples of established collection strengths within the participating institutions of AIM25 include:

- Scientists' papers (Imperial College)

- Educationalists' papers and archives of organisations in education (Institute of Education)

- Twentieth century military and defence staff private papers (Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London)

- Modern political papers; lesbian and gay history (London School of Economics)

- Development of the British Empire; astronomical, meteorological and topographical observation (Royal Geographical Society)

- Women's history (Royal Holloway)

- Development of medical science and education, ethnic, gender and cultural studies (the royal medical colleges and the Wellcome Institute)

- History of science and technology (Royal Institution and the Royal Society)

- Mathematical observation of social and economic trends (Royal Statistical Society)

- Missionary records (School of Oriental and African Studies)

- Literary papers; Latin American business records (University College London)

The institutional archives of participating repositories document the rich and varied tradition of higher education provision in the greater London area. These records have a local, metropolitan, national, colonial and international perspective; during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, London's educational institutions exported trained professionals overseas, and attracted students from all over the world. Regionally London was an early provider of commercial, technical and applied arts education through the polytechnics, many of which have since become new universities. Institutional records may be used for a vast array of different research topics, ranging from biography (e.g. the New Dictionary of National Biography) to studies of social mobility, professionalisation and gender as well as for the history of disciplines such as science and medicine.

In addition, the collections are of interest to the local historian. There is much material relating to the history of London, including information on the environs of higher education institutions throughout London, but also including information on other aspects of the city's history, including its businesses and hospitals. In addition, there are also collections relating to UK localities outside London and to countries overseas. AIM25 indexes include many personal and family names; of further interest to the family historian may be records relating to staff and students of educational institutions, for instance student registers.

Archival catalogues

Archival descriptions ('finding aids') identify and explain the content and context of archival material in order to make it accessible to researchers. A 'collection level' description like those provided by AIM25 will summarise the content of each collection, including two important fields 'Administrative/Biographical history', explaining the background of the person or organization who created the material (and sometimes including useful general information on the subject), and 'Scope and content', giving information which should enable researchers to identify whether or not the material will be useful to the subject they are interested in. Other information includes quantity; language; access conditions; and related materials created by the same individual or organization. AIM25 descriptions indicate where more detailed catalogues of collections (extending to descriptions of individual items) are available. AIM25 descriptions conform to an archival standard called ISAD(G), the General International Standard on Archival Description produced by the International Council on Archives.

Accessing the archives

AIM25 does not include images of archives themselves. To consult the archives described by AIM25, researchers need to contact the institutions where the material is held. Access conditions differ between institutions. AIM25 descriptions include links to the web pages of the institutions where material is held, which give its location and indicate what documentation you will need to consult the material and whether an appointment is necessary. See also ARCHON at the Historical Manuscripts Commission for information on archive repositories.

How does AIM25 interact with other archival projects?

AIM25 forms a major contribution towards the cross-sectoral UK wide archival network as set out by the National Council on Archives (NCA) reports Archives On-Line: the establishment of a U.K. archival network (1998) and British Archives: The Way Forward (1999). The 'Collection level descriptions' produced by AIM25 are exactly the means envisaged by the NCA as a first step of mapping archival collections in the UK and providing networked access on a broad basis. This framework will allow in the future, as resources may permit, for the incorporation of more detailed catalogues and ultimately digital imaging of archives themselves. Several of the AIM25 institutions have already contributed descriptions to the UK Archives Hub, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee, and the data produced by AIM25 will be suitable for inclusion in national, regional or specialist subject archive networks as these develop. It is also intended for AIM25 to provide the corresponding archive component to the M25 Consortium of Higher Education Libraries in the London Region, and it is included in the Online Resources for Historians gateway of the Institute of Historical Research. AIM25 will also continue to liaise and seek cooperation with current and future major archive initiatives, particularly the Access to Archives (A2A) project, as well as similar projects funded by RSLP, including the Collection Description Schema, a common electronic format for the description of archive, library and information resources across RSLP projects. Further details and links to these related projects are provided. Suggestions for other relevant links are welcomed.

How has the work of the project been done?

Overall direction is the responsibility of the Director of Archive Services at King's College London. Support to participating institutions for the conversion of existing finding aids and the creation of new collection descriptions is provided by AIM25 Project Archivists led by a Project Coordinator based at King's College London. The locations and broad categories of archives held in the newer Higher Education institutions in the London region have been surveyed. The data is hosted and managed by the University of London Computer Centre. Progress of the project has been monitored through regular meetings of the project team and partners, and ultimately by the AIM25 Steering Committee, which includes academics from core disciplines covered by the project and representatives of project partners. Details of contacting members of the project team are provided.

How can researchers contribute to the project?

The project invites researchers to send their feedback on the AIM25 website and the contents and facilities of its database, so that we may continually improve these services. Evaluation of the website was undertaken in December 2001 and the results published. The site news page keeps researchers informed on major developments to the project and additions to the database.