UKAD Case Study - Hull History Centre

Short Description of the Project

Merging the previously separate online catalogues for the Hull City Archives, Hull University Archives and the Hull Local Studies Library to provide a single point of access about the collections held by the three institutions.

To view the online catalogue visit:

Institutions/Organisations Involved

Hull City Council and Hull University


Simon Wilson, Senior Archivist, Hull History Centre
tel 01482 317506 or email


The Hull History Centre is the new home for Hull City Archives, Hull Local Studies Library and Hull University Archives.  Although the City Council and University have retained their existing legal identities there is a single front of house service and it was critical that this concept was carried through to providing a single point of access to the information about the collections held in the Centre.

Time Period

2009 -2010

Resources Required

Most of the work was conducted in-house alongside other duties. The one exception being the conversion of the Local Studies data held in SIRSI library system into a format suitable for CALM.  Other main expenses included paper (lots of it even when printing double-sided) and plastic wallets to extend the life of the catalogues in the searchroom.


There were several tasks involved in this work:  

  1. Comparison of the City Archives and University Archives cataloguing standards and practices to agree a common standard for Hull History Centre collections; to identify a preferred format for particular fields – for example dates where local practices currently differed
  2. Revision of existing data held in CALM to meet the agreed History Centre standard including the addition of a prefix to denote whether the collection was from City Archives (C), Local Studies (L) or University Archives (U) to avoid confusion where the same core reference code had been used by the different institutions. This work was started once the archives had closed as part of the preparation and move to the History Centre.
  3. Start a programme to retrospectively input paper-only catalogues into CALM
  4. Print-out new hardcopy versions of the catalogues using the same mailmerge template so the catalogues looked the same
  5. Identify and then implement a solution for the Local Studies data (with assistance from Axiell) held in SIRSI.

In terms of actually merging the three catalogues, we considered providing a search interface across the three catalogues but it proved to be far quicker and easier to use our existing experience with DServe to create a combined version of CALM that contained the catalogue records we wished to provide access to.  This is currently hosted on a university server so the City Council CALM records were simply copied across.  The records from the Local Studies library were held in a library system and we employed Axiell to map this data across and to then export and convert the data into a format that CALM would recognize.

We did ensure that the advanced search option on the website allowed a user to restrict a search to material from a particular repository.


The main outcome was the creation of a single point of access but the revisions to our hard copy catalogues also resulted in a major benefit for our users.  It also served as a useful mechanism for working together and to think about how we can effectively promote the collections which has led to the production of a number of source guides highlighting material from across the collections on a particular theme.

The one element we were not able to achieve was to display current status – with some items of the Local Studies Library being loan stock we could not maintain this information in the online catalogue and we still use SIRSI for circulation purposes.

Lessons learnt

We were fortunate that it had already been agreed by the City Council and the University that the History Centre could have its own visual identity and distinct url and we were able to make the catalogue site resemble the main History Centre website.

The sheer amount of time (and paper) it takes to export, format and print out the catalogues and place into clear plastic wallets was considerable. However having the catalogues in a consistent format is hugely beneficial – we have also saved the files as both Word and PDF onto a shared drive and have occasionally sent the PDF to users as an alternative to using the online catalogue.

Additional Documentation

A diagram (doc) showing the pre- and post-merger situation.

Future work

We are now looking at providing keyword subject access at Collection Level as a way of providing an alternative route into the wide-ranging collections held at the Centre.  A pilot block of records will be retrospectively enhanced in 2012 and the opportunity taken to provide name and other access points with the updated catalogues re-submitted to the Archives Hub.

We are also looking at how to provide persistent URIs to our collections so that links from the NRA to specific collection level entries can be restored.