Archive blogs in the UK – a sample study

CA_State_Archives_BoxesDo Archives in the UK use social media and if they do in what way?  This sample study carried out in November looks at the state of blogs, Twitter, and Facebook usage by approximately 100 archives in the UK.

Most local archives in the UK are run by councils and as such their web presence is often no more than a few pages on a council website and on the National Archives website and catalogues.  There are a few exceptions, however, and other types of archives that are worth further studying.

In November I carried out a sample study of 113 archives websites. I looked for the presence of a blog, twitter feed and Facebook account and took note of other social media outlets that appear to be used. I excluded general council social media accounts as these could not be shown to be representative of the archive itself and was more likely to include information about council tax and waste collections. Here are some basic results:

Surveyed 113 archives (on 1 November 2013)

Blog 26
Twitter 39 (not incl. generic council account)
Facebook 43 (not incl. generic council account)

Other social media commonly used:


Twitter and Facebook were the most common outlets for archives. In 29 cases both social media tools were used suggesting that archives who do attempt to use social media do so on more than one application.  There were less archives using blogs, although some did have blog-like content on their own website news feed (but not updated enough or delivered in a way that could be counted as a blog). Flickr and YouTube were popular tools as well, although in many cases there were only a handful of resources put online.

The next set of statistics allows us to delve a little deeper into the detail. There are many types of archives in the UK. National archives will have access to a wider array of resources than local archives. Some are specific in content and application (i.e. ecclesiastical archives or University library archives).

Social Media usage by type of Archive

Type Total Blog Facebook Twitter
Church 2 1 (50%) 1 (50%) 1 (50%)
Local/regional 87 13 (15%) 31 (35%) 26 (30 %)
National 19 8 (42%) 10 (52%) 9 (47%)
University 6 5 (83%) 3 (50%) 4 (66%)

Of those surveyed the majority were local archives run under council funding. Of those only 15% had made use of a blog although 30-35% were using Twitter or/and Facebook. Out of the 19 national archives only 8 had a blog but about half used Twitter or/and Facebook.

These results suggest that there is some attempt to use social media in the archives sector but it is not widespread. In general less than half of the 113 archives surveyed made any use of social media, even less made significant use of it. Of course this does not tell us anything about how these social media tools are used or why. More research is therefore required.

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