Below are some of the terms you may come across during your search.

Access status

This field will inform you whether an item can be viewed or not. The majority of items are 'open' and can be viewed in our reading room. If the text at Fonds level says 'Open', but subject to some access restrictions or 'Partially closed', please consult the lower item or file level in the collection to find which specific documents are closed within the collection. If the text says 'closed', there will be a 'closed until' date displaying and you will not be able to view the item until the closure date has elapsed.


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

Finding Number

This is the reference number of the document.


As well as providing an overview and summary of the contents for each archive collection, the online catalogue also includes detailed descriptions of the individual documents for most of our collections. Archives are usually arranged in collections called 'fonds' and then sub-divided if needed into lower levels of 'sub-fonds', 'series', 'files' and 'items'. The level thus indicates where the record can be found in the catalogue structure.
The levels most used currently in the catalogues are listed below.

Fonds level
The whole of the collection, organically created and/or accumulated and used by a particular person, family, or corporate body in the course of that creator's activities and functions. The fonds level provides an overview and a summary of the contents of each archive collection, e.g. the Austen Chamberlain Collection.
Sub-Fonds level
A subdivision of the fonds level, e.g. Austen Chamberlain's personal papers.
Series level
A series of records within the collection, e.g. the diaries and journals or photographs of Austen Chamberlain.
File level
A group of related records within the series, e.g. a photograph album. In most catalogues either file level or item level will be used, rather than both levels.
Item level
The smallest intellectually indivisible archival unit within the series, e.g. a single letter or photograph.

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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