Archives hold a wealth of material for academic researchers and students at undergraduate and postgraduate level, particularly those carrying out historical research. Archives provide original source material for the historian; many records of great value have never been used in the course of academic research, while others offer great potential for re-interpretation.
Archives, unlike library material, are not arranged by subject. They are arranged by 'creator' - all the records created by an individual or an organisation are kept together, as the archive of that individual or organisation. The archive of a public body (a local council, for example) will contain material relating to a range of subjects, as will the archive of a business, a landed estate or a prominent individual whose personal papers have been deposited in an archive repository. If you are researching the activities of the council, or the business, the landed estate or the prominent individual, you will probably need to look at all the records within these particular archives. However, you may want to find records on a particular subject which will involve using records from a number of different archives - if you are researching the development of public health services, for example, you may need to look at some records from the archive of the local council, some from the archive of an individual involved in public health reform, and others from a number of different individual archives.