UCLIC Research Seminar Series

SEMINAR 2nd Dec: Jo Pugh – Here be dragons: information seeking in digital heritage collections
Jo Pugh, University of York


SEMINAR 2nd Dec: Jo Pugh – Here be dragons: information seeking in digital heritage collections


Visitors to archival reading rooms receive a considerable amount of help and support from archivists and overwhelmingly report positive experiences from their engagement with professionals. Conversely, many users of large scale digitised archival catalogues and collections spend much of their time very confused.

In this paper we will discuss the barriers faced by users of digital archival collections, the strategies that experts and novices use to surmount them and how the systems themselves could provide more support and reduce user uncertainty.

I will present the results of a series of studies carried out at the National Archives focusing on user enquiries through multiple communication channels (on- and offline) and the interactions between archivists, users and archival systems. We will then discuss the results of a further study combining recorded online search sessions and participant interviews and examine why users succeed and fail to make progress in online archival search. Gathering all of this evidence together we will weigh up a series of techniques which could be applied to digital catalogues in order to better support users to locate the material they need.


Jo is an ESPRC funded collaborative doctoral student in the HCI group at the University of York and at the National Archives. His research focuses on information seeking in archival collections. Prior to commencing his doctoral work in 2012, he worked for six years in online education at the National Archives and for a number of museums and galleries. He has an MA in Museum Studies from the Institute of Archaeology at UCL and his first degree was in history.