Online databases and archives consist of materials that have been accumulated, stored and placed on the Internet either by individuals interested in a particular topic or, more often, by organisations of various sorts. Such archives may contain documents, images, audio recordings or other forms and combinations of electronic information.
The advantage of the Internet here is that it allows these often unique collections of data to be easily located and searched by anyone having the basic skills and knowledge required to undertake a search.
Importantly for the learning process, the information being placed into online databases is increasingly only being produced online and through that particular database, so the Internet in some cases becomes a unique source for the information you want.
Despite the wealth of up-to-date information contained in online databases, it is arguable that they are the most underutilised, and least known, part of the Internet, because of the difficulty people sometimes experience in finding and accessing them.
This is why databases and archives are sometimes referred to as the ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’ web. However, once you become aware of, and capable of finding, the information contained in the databases and archives, these data-sets are likely to become one of the most important tools in the learning process.