UKAD Case Study - Genesis



  • To increase use of women’s collections; a hidden history
  • To support the work of The Women's Library in being an advocate for this subject specialist area, by disseminating information about related collections
  • To maintain and develop an existing resource (est 2002) in the context of minimal staff resources or funding
  • To strengthen existing collaborations within the archive community and thereby encourage involvement in and awareness of the resource
  • To use technological developments and standards based approach to make it sustainable
  • To create a model/pilot which could be used by other subject groups


  • Rather than maintain a separate database of collection descriptions, The Women's Library decided to point a web site at The Archives Hub dataset
  • The searches all take place within the Genesis website, but the data is being reused live from the Hub - it's all retrieved using SRU
  • The first step was to identify which subject term to use. In this instance we use women* which covers terms such as women, women's suffrage, women's employment.
  • The next step was to ensure enough Hub entries had the subject index term 'women' included in the Collection Description.
  • The Women's Library searched on the Hub for individual institutions; the list of institutions’ holdings was quickly checked to identify archives obviously by or about women.
  • The ‘obvious’ collections were checked to see if they were indexed with a ‘women’ focussed term – most were not!
  • The Hub then updated the indices where requested.
  • The Women's Library IT support at London Metropolitan University wrote the Genesis website pages for the search and retrieval screens .
  • We launched in Spring 2011


  • Genesis moved from 46 partners to 200!
  • Over 1500 descriptions available, with several hundred additional records identified for adding

Lessons learnt

  • Although the majority of collection descriptions in Genesis are from archives, some are from specialist Library and Museums. The collection level descriptions that have been compiled for Genesis work well in the Hub irrespective of the 3 sectors
  • That subject indexing can be used to create subject specialist resources. The pilot worked! This model can be applied to any subject area which has a thesaurus subject term that can be consistently applied across the sector. For anyone thinking about a similar subject gateway it requires:
    1. Someone to check existing entries and index appropriate descriptions
    2. Someone to encourage subject rich collections to add their descriptions to the Hub
    3. Someone to host the subject website
    4. Someone to write the 6 or so web pages, to search and retrieve data
  • Subject indexing is still hit and miss across archive offices; we quickly found there were a lot more women’s records than we initially thought!
  • Sharing descriptions with the Hub brought new specialist partners to the Hub
  • Two gateways for the price of one: Partners are enthusiastic about reducing the number of partners they need to export catalogues to. For Spokes who use Cheshire software this becomes 3 gateways for the price of one as data is harvested from individual spokes to the Hub and Genesis
  • The collaboration between Aim25, Archives Hub and Genesis which was a feature of the initial projects c.2000 is still very active. new-Genesis led to sharing of descriptions between the 3 partners lessening workloads on individual institutions
  • Since 2000 existing partner institutions have vastly increased the number of online descriptions available – these are not always available on the Hub or Aim25, but are only available on local websites. As a sector we need to improve the ‘export process’ from software such as CALM and Adlib, preferably moving towards more technical solutions such as harvesting data from the original data source. By collaborating we can improve visibility of our collections whilst reducing our workloads.

Future work

  • To market the resource to users and potential users - We have posters and postcards if you want to display or distribute information on our behalf
  • To encourage Hub and Genesis partners to update and add to their descriptions
  • To encourage new partners to submit entries
  • To encourage the submission of museum and printed collection level descriptions as well as archive descriptions
  • To encourage archive offices to use subject indexing appropriately in order to expose their collections
  • To encourage other subject specialist networks or collections to copy the success of Genesis. BAME, LGBT, business records, labour history records, military, theatre, art, music, architecture. All of these subject areas, and more, have had surveys carried out in the past, but have found it difficult to maintain or develop their online resources. This may prove a more sustainable way forward
  • To encourage developments via UKAD using harvesting and reuse of data from archive offices. This will help collaborative projects such as the Hub and Aim25. It will also reduce work for individual collections offices and provide greater access to specialist user communities in the UK.