What is AIM25?
AIM25 is a permanent web-accessible database of descriptions of the archives and manuscript collections of more than one hundred and fifty of London's higher education institutions, learned societies, cultural organisations and City livery companies. The website has been fully available since 2002. New partner institutions and records are added regularly with the objective of London-wide coverage of all the capital's archive holdings.
AIM25 is a Registered Charity (Number 1168908).
Who runs AIM25?
AIM25 is run by volunteers from partner archives with technical support provided by IMAGIZ. Partner institutions supply collection level descriptions of their archives, assisted by the central team.
Why is AIM25 useful for researchers?
The website is used by a wide range of researchers including academics, students, genealogists and members of the general public as a discovery tool to locate information about archival collections in the London area. The website improves the efficiency of research and opens up access to collections never previously described.
What kind of material is covered?
AIM25 covers archive material. An archive collection (of 'fonds') refers to the records created or accumulated, at any date, by a person, family or corporate body such as a higher education institution or a business. Some large archives are made up of smaller units (or 'sub-fonds') which correspond to an administrative subdivision (e.g. a department) in the organisation which created them, or 'series' of records which share the same form (e.g. minute books). Some archive collections are artificial, in that they were made up of materials brought together by being collected from various sources - rather than created - by an individual or organisation. Archives come in a variety of formats, for example manuscripts, photographs, maps, sound recordings and videos.
How can these collections be used?
The collections cover a huge range of subjects. Archives held in the institutions covered by AIM25 fall into two categories: firstly, the archives created by that institution, documenting its history and development; and, secondly, collections which have been deposited at that institution, created by other individuals or organisations. Between them, the participating institutions care for some of the premier collections of archives in the country relating to anthropology, politics, law, economics, education, languages and literature, religion, military, social and cultural history and the history of science and medicine. Examples of established collection strengths within the partner institutions of AIM25 include:
- Scientists' papers (Imperial College)
- Educationalists' papers and archives of organisations in education (Institute of Education)
- Twentieth century military and defence staff private papers (Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London)
- Modern political papers; lesbian and gay history (London School of Economics)
- Development of the British Empire; astronomy; exploration (Royal Geographical Society)
- Development of medical science and education, veterinary medicine, ethnic, gender and cultural studies (the royal medical colleges, Royal Veterinary College and the Wellcome Library)
- Women's history (Women's Library)
- History of science and technology (Royal Institution and the Royal Society)
- Mathematical observation of social and economic trends (Royal Statistical Society)
- Missionary records (School of Oriental and African Studies)
- Natural world (Natural History Museum)
- Literary papers; Latin American business records (University College London)
- Refugee studies (University of East London)
- Jewish history (Wiener Library)
- City of London (livery companies)
- Sport (Rugby Museum)
- Art and culture (Royal Opera House and Royal Festival Hall)
The institutional archives of AIM25 partners document the rich and varied tradition of higher education provision in the Greater London area. These records have a local, metropolitan, national, colonial and international perspective; during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, London's educational institutions exported trained professionals overseas, and attracted students from all over the world. Regionally, London was an early provider of commercial, technical and applied arts education through the polytechnics, many of which have since become new universities. Institutional records may be used for a vast array of different research topics, ranging from biography to studies of social mobility, professionalisation and gender as well as the history of disciplines such as science and medicine.
Historians of London and its trade, businesses and hospitals will find useful material, as will family historians consulting records relating to students and staff of educational institutions and members of the livery companies.
Archival descriptions ('finding aids') identify and explain the content and context of archival material in order to make it accessible to researchers. A 'collection level' description, like those provided by AIM25, will summarise the content of each collection, including two important fields: 'Administrative/Biographical history', explaining the background of the person or organisation who created the material, and 'Scope and content', describing its contents.
Other useful information includes quantity, access conditions and the whereabouts of related materials. AIM25 descriptions conform to an archival standard called ISAD (G), the General International Standard on Archival Description produced by the International Council on Archives. Descriptions are fully indexed using the UK Archival Thesaurus and UNESCO Thesaurus and meet the National Council on Archives' Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.
How to access the archives
AIM25 describes archives held in the London area. It does not itself preserve original archives or digital copies. Researchers need to contact the institutions where the material is held. AIM25 descriptions include links to the web pages, contact details and location of the institutions where material is held. See also the ARCHON website maintained by The National Archives, which lists contact details of archive repositories.
How does AIM25 interact with other archival projects?
AIM25 is part of a network of similar search systems that emerged following a National Council on Archives sectoral review in 1998 (Archives On-Line: the establishment of a U.K. archival network). This paved the way for national networked access of collection level archive descriptions. AIM25 works closely with the UK Archives Hub, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee to promote data sharing and improve online access to archive descriptions. Another key partner is the M25 Consortium of Higher Education Libraries in the London Region with whom AIM25 has now developed an online search-tool to allow users to search for both books and archives in the capital's research libraries. AIM25 also collaborates with The National Archives as a member of the National Archives Network (NAN), which seeks to develop new online search strategies to improve learning and research.
AIM25 improvements, 2008-2009
In 2008 work began on upgrading AIM25, generously supported by the Vice Chancellor of the University of London. New partner institutions and records have been added, the indexing improved and the website enhanced with deep level linking from collection level descriptions to full catalogues, the addition of images and Web 2.0 features such as tag clouds and RSS feeds. First time access is being provided to a range of important records, not least those of the Royal Geographical Society and Wellcome Library. Work was completed in 2009.
Between 2010 and 2014, AIM25 participated in three projects funded by Jisc to explore the use of linked data in archive catalogues. For more information, please visit http://openmetadatapathway.blogspot.co.uk.
AIM25 continues to grow, adding new partner institutions and descriptions. Please check the website regularly for news updates or subscribe to the RSS feeds to learn more.
A voice for London's archives
AIM25 also provides a forum for London's archivists to share ideas and best practice and contribute to regional and national initiatives, such as supporting London 2012's Cultural Olympiad. In doing so, it works closely with organisations such as 'Archives for London' and 'The National Archives'.
Initial development and subsequent upgrades have been supported with the generous support of, among others, the Research Support Libraries Programme and the Vice Chancellor's Development Fund of the University of London. AIM25 would like to thank King's College London and the University of London Computer Centre for their support in the past, the contributions of partner institutions, and the feedback and advice provided by academic and other colleagues.