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Terms used in the archive catalogue

An explanation of some of the terms used in our online catalogue.

Terms used in the catalogue

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Reference number

Each item within a collection has its own unique reference number. This should be used when referring to it or requesting it in the searchroom.

Extent
When we describe something in our catalogues, we say what physical form it takes, to help explain what it is. This is termed the 'extent'. For whole collections it is often given in terms of how many linear or cubic metres it occupies on the shelf. For individual items, it shows whether what is being described is a file, three volumes, two papers, a photograph etc.

Level
Archival collections are hierarchical, and each stage of the hierarchy is said to be a different 'level'. Our online catalogue states the level of each description. We give the name of the level in the catalogue to show whether what is being described is an entire collection, a part of a collection, or a single item. Here are the levels that are found in our catalogues:

1. Fonds level
A fonds is an entire collection of archives relating to a particular person or organisation. In our catalogues, these are given a more detailed description with information about the body that created them. This helps to put the records into context.

2. Subfonds level
As its name suggests, a subfonds is a subdivision of a fonds (see above). In practical terms, it might be the records of a department of a district council, or records relating to a separate function or role played by an individual. Not all collections divide into subfonds.

3. Series level
A series is a set of records within a collection that are similar in form or function, for example a set of minute books or rentals.

4. Item level
We use the term 'Item' to mean a single object within a collection, for example a single volume, paper or map. Records described at Item level can be consulted in the searchroom.

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