Archival cataloguing uses its own language, this glossary explains some of the terms you will come across in our catalogue.


Level
This is the archival term for where the record can be found in the catalogue structure, or hierarchy (catalogued archive collections are structured like family trees). The levels most often used in the catalogue are:


Collection/Fonds
Summary details of an archive collection, for example the archives of a particular organisation such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers or a person such as Sir Christopher Hinton. A collection-level record will usually provide background notes on the creator of the archive (biographies for people or administrative histories for organisations). It will also provide an overview of the types of material available in the collection.


Series
Details for a series of records within a collection for example, a series of minute books of an organisation or the diaries of a person.


File
Details for individual record groups within a series which are related by topic/date etc. These have no set quantity; it might be a folder, a volume or a box.


Ref No
This stands for Reference Number and you will need it when requesting further information or to view material, or for searches. The Ref No is a unique number given to each collection and the levels below it for example, PER/7/1/1 the collection is Personal Records (PER), the 7 denotes that it is the 7th series within the collection, the 1 tells you it is the 1st file within the series and the second 1 tells you that it is the 1st item within the file. Each level is separated by a /.


Alt Ref No
Some collections have an Alternative Reference Number as well. Either Ref No or Alt Ref No can be used.


Physical Description
The main materials the item/file etc is made up of and notes on condition (where relevant).


Dimensions
The size of item(s) where relevant. This is most commonly used for drawings, objects and photographs.


Access Status
This field indicates whether the material is available to view:


"Open" means you will be able to consult the material.


"Closed" means the material is not currently available for consultation. There are a number of reasons why material may be unavailable; it may contain sensitive personal information.


“Assisted” means you will be able to consult the material but will be assisted by a member of staff to do so. This normally means an item very large or delicate.


“Digital” means a digitised version of the item/file etc must be consulted. This is often for conservation reasons. Digital versions are on our Virtual Archive, if text based, or in our Picture Gallery, if image based. Details are shown in Related Materials.


Extent
The quantity of material which is being described.


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