Anyone who studies history seriously is familiar with the story: a research trip to the archive turns sour as access to documents is denied, or the archives are closed, or they don't allow certain technical equipment. Now, a new website from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) aims to empower historical researchers of all levels and make unsuccessful research trips a thing of the past.
Archives Made Easy, launched today (Wednesday 14 September), is an online guide to archives around the world. The website serves the global research community by providing transparency of the costs and processes involved in an archive visit - the kind of information researchers need to know beforehand in order to avoid costly mistakes and delays.
A new initiative from the LSE's Department of International History, the website harnesses the experience of researchers in a free and open-access environment.
Hosted at www.archivesmadeeasy.org, the site currently covers archives all over the world, and is constantly growing. So far, content has come from the doctorate students of the International History department and their colleagues at various universities worldwide.
'We welcome contributions from all researchers on any archive, even if it is simply to update an existing review,' said Stephanie Hare-Cuming, webmaster of the site. 'One of the most enjoyable aspects of building the site has been a new appreciation of the different operating practices of archives around the globe. Archives Made Easy is a window onto the world in which historical research is conducted. For instance, there are incredibly informal archives where researchers are allowed to drink coffee at the desks while consulting documents, archives that are sometimes shut because of political demonstrations, and archives that offer funding to help researchers pay for their visit.'
Professor Arne Westad, convenor of LSE's International History department, said: 'Most people associate the study of history with dusty books and papers. While this is happily often the case, there is a growing movement to use the internet to help more researchers gain unprecedented access to sources and build knowledge networks.'
Stephanie Hare-Cuming added: 'While on a trip to the archives, the only questions that researchers should have are those relating to their research. Archives Made Easy aims to make that a reality.'
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14 September 2005