This blog post was written by the Archives Hub team. It is one of a series of blog posts on the theme of Magic and the Supernatural, as part of History Day 2017, where you can find Archives Hub and ask them any questions you have.

The Archives Hub is a service allowing you to explore materials held in over 300 archival institutions across the UK through a single website. It helps students, researchers and academics at all levels to locate primary sources relevant to their work, and saves them time in defining research topics, identifying key materials for study and planning research trips.

Much of the material described on the Archives Hub is little known, or has only just been catalogued and made discoverable online. The service therefore supports original, cutting-edge research, by connecting researchers with hard-to-find and often unstudied materials.

Guillaume de L’Isle (1675-1726), Les Isles Britanniques ou sont le royaumes d’Angleterre – published in Atlas nouveau (Amsterdam : Jean Covens & Corneille Mortier, ca. 1757). Map reproduction courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike License (CC BY-NC-SA). Found via Old Maps Online, one of the themed collections described on the Archives Hub.

The collections represented cover 2000 years of history and include the archives of people, organisations and businesses. You will find a huge diversity of primary source material described, including (but not limited to) family papers, letters, photographs, printed ephemera, publication drafts, lectures, research notes and financial documents. The Hub supports historical research in a wide range of areas, but also research in subject areas beyond history, including the sciences, social sciences, media, performance and design. Whatever your specialism you are likely to find something of interest.

A row of 18th century customer account ledgers (1717 to ca.1900) from the bank Goslings of Fleet Street (one of only a handful of complete runs of banking ledgers from the 18th and 19th centuries that have survived into modern times in Britain). Image used with kind permission of Barclays Group Archives. You can browse their descriptions on the Archives Hub.

The search and display options on the Archives Hub are flexible. You can:

  • Limit your search to fields such as title, creator and subject
  • Construct complex keyword queries
  • Filter your results by repository, date, creator and subject
  • Quickly identify descriptions that display or link to digital content
  • Discover specialised digital resources in the Themed Collections tab
  • Use the interactive map to see where collections are held and plan visits

Archival descriptions often contain multiple, hierarchical levels, and the Hub displays these for you in an innovative way, allowing you to get a quick sense of how big a collection is, and to navigate between levels more easily.

In addition, we publish monthly features from our expert contributors on the Archives Hub blog, which highlight specialist subjects and collections. We also have a guide to understanding and using archives, which is useful for researchers at all levels.

The Hub team are looking forward to meeting attendees at History Day 2017, and explaining how the Archives Hub can support research, so please do come and find us on the day. If you can’t make it, why not follow us on Twitter (@archiveshub) or Facebook (@jiscarchiveshub), sign up to our mailing list, or send us an email.

Reflecting the theme of the event this year, we’ve brought together below some of the descriptions on the Hub we’ve found relating to ‘Magic and the Supernatural’, to give you a sense of the breadth and interest of the materials the Hub can help you find. This is only a sample though, and we’re sure there’s much more to be discovered!


Magic and the Supernatural on the Hub

  • A Batak pustaha (a book used by Batak priests in northern Sumatra, Indonesia), held by the Amsterdam Tropenmuseum. ‘The 56 pages are made of tree bark cloth, and if you unfold it completely you get a strip 17 metres long…The book contains descriptions of all kinds of spells and incantations needed by the datu, as the Batak priests are called’ (quote from The Great Pustaha, published by the Google Cultural Institute). Image licensed for use by the Tropenmuseum under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA 3.0).

    • Italian text of the Clavicola di Salamones (or Clavicula Salomonis) held at University of St Andrews Special Collections. The Key of Solomon is a famous grimoire or handbook of magic dating back to the 15th century
    • Manuscripts in the Wellcome Library relating to accusations of witchcraft made by women in the 19th century in the empire of New Spain (probably Mexico)
    • Papers relating to the ‘Witch of Monzie’, Kate McNiven, one of the last women to be executed as a witch in Scotland in 1715. Held at University of Dundee Archive Services
    • Judge Hale’s papers concerning witches, part of the Richard Baxter Collection at Dr Williams’s Library, containing the depositions of witnesses, respecting witchcraft, alleged to have been committed upon the children of Samuel Pacey of Lowestoft, and other particulars of the trial at Norwich on 13th March 1661/2