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About UKAT

Background

UKAT is a subject thesaurus which has been created to support indexing and searching in the UK archive sector. UKAT should promote greater consistency in the subject indexes created by individual archive repositories, and by the projects which make up the strands of the emerging national archives network. Any gateway (or gateways) created for the network, such as that proposed by the Linking Arms project, will need a common terminology to ensure that users' subject searches retrieve all relevant records, across all the sets of data linked to the gateway. A shared standard for subject indexing will help the national archives network to achieve its subject searching potential, benefitting both archive services and their users.

The backbone of UKAT is the UNESCO Thesaurus (UNESCO), a high-level thesaurus with terminology covering education, science, culture, the social and human sciences, information and communication, politics, law and economics. UNESCO was used as the basis for UKAT because of its adoption for indexing purposes by a number of archives and archive projects, including the National Archives, Archives in London and M25 Area (AIM25), Access to Archives (A2A), CASBAH (Caribbean, Black and Asian Studies), Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education (GASHE), MUNDUS (missionary archives), and the Archives Hub (which also uses Library of Congress Subject Headings). However, while UNESCO covers a broad range of subject areas, it often lacks the depth of detailed terminology required by archives for indexing. It was therefore decided that UKAT should extend and adapt UNESCO to incorporate indexing terms which repositories and projects had devised themselves or incorporated from other schemes, such as Library of Congress Subject Headings or the British Education Thesaurus. UKAT has thus been created as a thesaurus conforming to international standards, with the coherent structure of UNESCO, but also significantly enhanced to include terms of relevance to the archive community and its users. Particular emphasis has been given to incorporating terms reflecting the histories and experiences of groups which are under-represented among archive users, to encourage their participation in the archival heritage in line with national priorities for the sector.

The creation of UKAT was primarily funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), with additional funding and support from the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC) and the National Archives. This supported a full-time editor between June 2003 and August 2004. As the funded phase of the project has now ended, please note that only minor website maintenance is being carried out and editing is now being undertaken on a voluntary basis, so substantial submissions may take some time to be dealt with.

UKAT is available to search and browse by A-Z and by hierarchy via the project's website, which continues to be hosted by ULCC. UKAT data can be downloaded from the website in various formats, including formats suitable for import into archival cataloguing software (see Download data). See the Project partners page for information about the organisations which supported the project. Key documents relating to the project, including the project's methodology, can be downloaded from the Downloads page.

The UKAT team

The development of UKAT has been overseen by a Management Board consisting of personnel from the National Archives and the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC), the two lead partners in the HLF-funded phase of the project. Day to day management was the responsibility of a Project Co-ordinator. Construction of the Thesaurus was undertaken by an Editor based at ULCC.

UKAT's creation has also been assisted by two other groups:

An Advisory Panel, formed to advise the project from the standpoint of archive custodians. The Panel consists of about 30 members drawn from archives in the local government sector, the academic sector, charities, and national and regional bodies. It also includes terminology specialists and a representative of the UNESCO Library. The formation of the Panel was agreed at a meeting of the former UNESCO Thesaurus Working Party on 10 March 2003. The Working Party (subsequently dissolved) was formed in December 2000 to ensure that the application of UNESCO by the UK archive community followed a process of national agreement. The UKAT Panel has its own discussion list and has held occasional meetings.

A User Group, formed to advise the project from the standpoint of users of archives. The Group's membership includes representatives of family history societies and archive users organizations, as well as individual users. We regret that the User Group discussion list is no longer active in this post-funding phase of UKAT. We would still be very grateful for any comments which you may have about the UK Archival Thesaurus, the project's website or the project in general. These may be addressed to UKAT

Although the funded phase of the project has ended, members of the project team can still be contacted (see Contacting UKAT). Minor website maintenance is still being carried out, as is editing of web submitted terms (see Contributing terms, below). If you would like to assist the project, e.g. by joining the Advisory Panel or User Group, please Contact UKAT.

Contributing terms

UKAT has being constructed from terms contributed by archive services, archive projects and users of archives. The Contributors page provides details of the archives, archive projects and individuals whose terms have been incorporated into the Thesaurus.

Although the main editing phase of UKAT has ended, limited editing of terms submitted via the UKAT website is still being undertaken. It is still possible to Register as a contributor. Once you've registered, you can login and propose terms for addition to the Thesaurus. Please bear in mind that editing is now being undertaken on a voluntary basis, so substantial submissions may take some time to be dealt with. We are also unable to guarantee a timeframe during which each submission will be edited. All submissions will be edited in order of receipt and we thank you in advance for your patience.

Updated September 2004