Undergraduate Use of University Archives and Special Collections:
: Motivations, Barriers and Best Practice

  • Louise Clough

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


With many of the nation’s archives and special collections housed in universities, the purpose and aim of this study is to investigate undergraduate use of university archives and special collections with a view to increasing usage by this group. This is supported by the research question what are the motivations and barriers affecting undergraduate use of university archives and special collections?

The objectives to achieve this aim are to review current practice in the sector, to explore undergraduate and academic staff perceptions of university archives and special collections, to identify the motivations and barriers affecting undergraduate use, to act as a best-practice guide for higher education archivists in encouraging greater undergraduate use of collections; and to draw conclusions and suggest how the study could be extended in future.

The main themes discovered from the literature review were relationships between the archive service and academics, librarians and undergraduates; access and promotion incorporating advertising, exhibitions, physical and digital access and cataloguing; and teaching sessions and skills.

The mixed-methods data collection focuses on sample populations of undergraduates and academic staff at the University of Gloucestershire. Undergraduate students were surveyed via an online questionnaire and academic tutors took part in a focus group.

Results showed that motivations and barriers affecting undergraduate use of university archives and special collections are multi-faceted and diverse. Student awareness such services exist needs to be raised and the most effective way of doing so is in close conjunction with their academic tutors and through the medium of archive teaching sessions relating to coursework. Despite these pressures and constraints, this study has found that undergraduates have a genuine desire to find out more about archives and special collections, and academic staff emulate that same desire for working with the service, finding it a valuable contribution to the university community
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJulie Mathias (Supervisor)

Cite this