How to use the catalogues

You can search across several kinds of records within this catalogue:

  • Collections: these are the descriptions of the collections (the catalogues)
  • People and organisations: these are the creators of the collections and/or people as subjects within a collection
  • Subjects and Places: these are currently only at collection level

In future you will also be able to search by:

  • Subjects and Places: both attached to item level records

How to carry out a basic search

  • You can find the basic search box in the top left-hand corner of the screen.
  • Simply click in the search box and start typing in your search terms. It doesn't matter whether your search terms are in upper or lower case; both will produce the same results.
  • The search facility includes an auto-suggest feature. As you start typing, suggestions from our catalogue will appear. Click on the one that is of interest to you, or continue typing and press enter on your keyboard (or click the magnifying glass next to the search box) to see a list of archival descriptions that relate to your search term.
  • If your search is successful you will see a list of results. Down the left-hand side of the screen are a number of categories which allow you to filter your results. These can be really helpful if you are faced with a large number of results. Scroll down to see all the categories (including filtering by subject and level of description).
  • If you have too many results in your results list (and not all of them appear to be immediately relevant to you), have a look at the search tips below or open up the advanced search options to search specific fields within the catalogue.

Searching for archival reference numbers:

If searching for archival reference numbers (for example K/PP107/1/2) we suggest you enclose the reference in double quotes. Enter "K/PP107/1/2" into the search box to find the description for this reference. You can search without using double quotes but the results returned will include all references with the same elements in different orders (eg K/PP107/2/1).

Searching for an exact phrase:

Use double quotes to search for an exact phrase. For example search for “John Smith” instead of John Smith. This will ensure that the search only returns results that contain the exact phrase.

Searching for any occurrence of more than one word:

Use OR to ensure your search picks up any occurrence of the words you are searching for. If you search for college OR school the search will return any results that mention the word college or the word school. Otherwise your results will only include records that mention both college and school. Note that OR needs to be in capital letters.

Excluding search terms:

Use NOT to exclude records that contain a particular word or phrase. For example, search for college NOT school if you want to find records that mention college but exclude those records that mention school. Note that NOT needs to be in capital letters.

Allowing for different spellings or plurals:

Use the wildcards * or ? to search for words that may be written in singular or plural or that may have different spellings. For example, if you want to find out about telegraphs that are mentioned within the archives, search for telegraph*. This will return results that contain the word "telegraph" or the word "telegraphs". If you want to find information about Charles Wheatstone but want to allow for different spellings, you could search for Whe?tstone and this would pick up results for "Whettstone" and "Wheatstone" . The * can be used to find matches for zero to many characters and the ? can be used as a wildcard for a single character.

How to carry out an advanced search

  • An advanced search option is available and can either be accessed by clicking in the basic search box, or using the advanced search options drop down menu when browsing or searching archival descriptions.
  • Using the advanced search enables searches to be carried out within a specific date range. Selecting the ‘overlapping’ option will give you more results, but if you want to search for records that fall within a very specific date range you may prefer to use the ‘exact’ search.
  • The advanced search also allows you to identify specific fields to search for your keywords or phrases. For example, you may find it useful to search just the title or scope and content field for a particular word or phrase.
  • You may build up quite complex queries using the advanced search page and can use AND, OR and NOT operators to add further criteria to your search.

Browsing our holdings

  • Click on Catalogue descriptionsPeople and organisationsSubjectsPlaces using the "Browse by" drop down menu beside the search box.
  • Sort results by “Most recent” to change the order of the list to show the most recent changes to the catalogue first.
  • Sort results by “Alphabetic” to revert to alphabetical order.
  • Sort results by “Reference code” to change the order of the list to show material in order of reference number.
  • If you are browsing People & Organisations you have the further option to enter a query in the People & Organisations specific search box at the top of the page. This will confine your search to People & Organisations.

Browsing a detailed catalogue

  • Some of our archives and collections have more detailed catalogues. When you access a record for one of these collections, the hierarchy (or tree view) of the catalogue will be visible in a window above the description of the record you are looking at.
  • You may use this window to see where you are within the catalogue - the record you are looking at will be highlighted in blue.
  • You can also use it to navigate the catalogue. Clicking on different areas of the hierarchy / tree view will reveal other levels of description, allowing you to see how the collection has been structured. Seeing where you are within the detailed catalogue will help you to understand the wider context of the record you are looking at.

Additional Finding Aids

A few of our collections are not fully catalogued but have draft catalogues attached as pdfs. The content of these are included in the results of any searches but may not be immediately obvious. They can be found in the description of a collection near the bottom of the page and down the right-hand side under Finding Aid.