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Special Collections & Archives logo : Transcription of using the archives catalogue

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Transcription of using the archives catalogue video

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The University of Liverpool

Special Collections and Archives

Using the SC&A Archives Catalogue

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What is an archives catalogue?

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The archives catalogue provides information about archival material held within the collections.

The catalogue allows users to understand how the records within a collection have been organised.

On a functional level, it is a tool that allows us to find archival material that is relevant to our research.

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Where can I find the archives catalogue?

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The link to the archives catalogue is available on the SC&A homepage

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How are the records within the archive catalogue organised?

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Archival material is generally arranged in a hierarchical structure, and therefore archive catalogues describe the material at multiple levels.

A collection level description is often known as a “fonds”. This can be further subdivided into groups of records, such as sub-fonds and series.

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Here we have the fonds level (top-level) catalogue record for the University Archive

We can subdivide the fonds, in order to see how the archive is organised

Click the ‘context’ tab and then the black arrows to open the hierarchy

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In the case of an organisation, the catalogue may be arranged to reflect the administrative structure, division of functions and record keeping practices of the originating body.

In the case of an individual’s records, they might be arranged chronologically by type, in order to reflect the division of activities within the person’s life. For example: correspondence, diaries and lecture notes.

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You can see that the University Archive has been organised to reflect the structure of the organisation, and the logical grouping of like records

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What information is included in an archives catalogue? Why?

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At each level of the hierarchy, the catalogue description may contain the following information:

  • Reference code, which is a unique identifier for the collection/item
  • Title of the collection/item
  • Creator, which is the organisation or individual who created the archival material
  • Covering or exact dates (‘n.d.’ = no date; c. or [ ] = estimated date)
  • Summary, which is further details about the archival material
  • Biographical/Administrative Information, which is contextual details about the Creator
  • Physical Description, which is the size of the archival material
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Here we are dividing the hierarchy in order to reach the item/file level

This record shows all of the relevant information for a single volume of Senate Minutes

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Not only is the information provided within the catalogue important for your research (e.g. citations and footnotes), it provides you with the reference number. This is required to request an appointment to view archival material in the Reading Room.

Archive collections vary in size and can be very large, so do take into consideration the Physical Description or extent when requesting to view material. It is best to be as specific as possible, by expanding the hierarchy as much as possible. 

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For example, the papers of Professor Abercrombie (D439) are 25 boxes, 2 vols

By expanding the hierarchy we are also reducing the physical size of our request

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How do I search the archives catalogue?

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The keyword search function will search all of the collections within the SC&A Archives Catalogue

Alternatively, make us of the “Advanced” search function to narrow your search

Help using the “Advanced” function can be found under the “Search tips” box

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Browsing the catalogue is also an effective search tool

You may locate relevant archival material serendipitously, or find out more about the collection

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