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Guide to Archival Research

A guide on using archival materials held in the Dalhousie University Archives

Additional Resources

Browse within a Finding Aid

Finding aids describe the content and context of archival fonds and collections. Finding aids are descriptive inventories, which provide details about the history or biography of a creator, and also about the elements that make up the whole fonds (series, files, etc.). In some cases only preliminary inventories that provide description to the fonds or series level are available.

The Dalhousie University Archives collection may be accessed by searching a term or by browsing our finding aid index.

Browse within an individual Finding Aid - Below are directions on conducting a search using the browse function.within an individual finding aid.


Browse within a finding aid - examples

Does the Archives have any business letters written by the Dominion Chair Company especially with internatioal customers?

We will look at the files we have on the Dominion Chair Company, read the description on the fonds and series levels to comprehend what is included in the files. Then we take a look at the series arrangement to see if there is list where letters would be included.

Search the name Dominion Chair as a keyword and choose "Dominion Chair Company fonds"

The "Holdings" list is located on the left side of the screen. The holdings list represents the way the collection is arranged. The structure goes from the fonds top overview level, to the series level where similar types of records are grouped together and finally to the file/item level within each series. The scope and notes on the fonds and series level descriptions will help to describe what is in the records. Not all finding aids have series level scope and note descriptions.

The rectanguler button with three periods, circled in red above. indicates there are additional series in the list Click on the button to expand the list.

Once you have expanded the list completely you can browse through that list, using the slide bar, to choose something of interest.

In the example we are looking for letters. Correspondence covers all types of communication in this fonds.Please choose this series.

Browse within a finding aid - more examples

Each series is made of similar documentsdivided into files. In our example the scope and note on the "Correspondence and invoices" series indicates that thereare customer correspondence from many countries. The files are arranged in alphabetical order by customer name When you hover over the file the comple title show up. Notice the Reference Id, box and folder numbers are given.


Clicking on a particular file will bringup more of a description

In our example we do find business correspondence from the Dominion Chair Company which includes international customers. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name. It is not arranged by geographic location.


Quick searching within the Finding Aid

Within the individual finding aid you may perform a "Quich search". This will do a search of the entire fonds, on the title proper field only. The Dominion Chair Company is again being searched for any interaction with Alaska Feather, a company.

Click on the Quick search box. located on the left side of the finding aid.

A new screen will appear with an empty search box. Enter a term. We are using the term "Alaska Feather", the name of the company.

The results of the search give one file. Remeber the title proper field is the only one being searched. The menu on the left of the screen will flip back to the "Holdings" file, placing the term that was searched in the hierarchy of Fonds, Series and File.

This is the record that has been discovered.