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Archival Terms

During cataloguing a number of archival terms are used, and these can be unfamilar to some people. This page is designed to provide a brief guide to some of the most common terms you will come across searching the catalogue.

Level - Is the archival term for where the record can be found in the catalogue structure. The levels most currently used in the catalogues are listed below. An important point to remember is that each collection is structured from the large to the small, so from the Fonds to the File/Item.

  • Fonds level - Fonds is another word for 'collection'. The fonds level provides an overview and a summary of the contents of the collection, e.g. the Bell Brothers Co. Ltd Collection.
  • Sub-Fonds level - A subdivision of the fonds level, e.g. Bell Brothers Corporate Records.
  • Series level - A series of records within the collection, e.g. Bell Brothers Minute Books.
  • File level - A group of related records within the series, e.g. a Secretary's file.
  • Item level - The smallest intellectually indivisible archival unit within the series, e.g. a single letter or photograph.

Access status – this can be either ‘Open’ or ‘Closed’. If something is marked 'Closed', it means that you will not automatically be able to look at the item in question because it contains sensitive information of some kind, for example hospital records, court records, school records etc.

RefNo - This is number you will need to note down if you want to order a document.

Extent - This field provides information about the quantity of material which is being described (e.g. 2 boxes, 1 volume).

Physical description - This field provides relevant information about any important physical characteristics which might affect a record’s use (e.g. size, fragility).

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