The Dalhousie University Archives holds extensive collections of archival materials. We hold archival materials that relate to all areas of learning and teaching on campus.
This guide will help introduce you to using archival materials and show how you can incorporate them into your research and coursework. Use the tabs above to navigate the guide.
What Are Archival Materials?
Archival materials are materials created or received by a person, family, organization, or business, in the conduct of their affairs. They serve as evidence of past actions and events.
Archival materials record information about past activities and events. They act as memory aids that allow us to recall and relive these activities and events, or to re-communicate information about them at some point in the future.
Archival materials are preserved as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator or because of their enduring value.
What Kind of Materials Can I Find in an Archives?
Archival materials can include a wide variery of formats:
- Textual records (e.g., correspondence, meeting minutes, reports, etc.)
- Architectural plans
- Audiovisual records (e.g., tape, film, video, etc.)
- Computer files (e.g., word documents, spreadsheets, software files, etc.)
- Data sets (e.g., databases, GIS data, etc.)
How are Archival Materials Organized?
Archival Materials are typically organized into fonds. A fonds is the entire body of records of an organization, family, or individual that have been created and accumulated as the result of an organic process.
Each fonds is assigned a call number. Sometimes we call them fonds numbers or location numbers. These numbers help us locate the materials in the archives and they help us organize information about the fonds.
Each file or group of files in a fonds is also assigned a file number. Sometimes they are called Box-Folder numbers. These numbers help us locate individual files within a fonds.
Each fonds is kept separately from other fonds to prevent the records from becoming intermingled and disorganized. Fonds are then sub-divided in a hierarchical structure consisting of "series," "sub-series," "files," and "items."
A typical fonds at Dalhousie University Archives and Special Collections might look like:
Do you have an Archives Reference Collection?
Yes! Many of our most frequently used materials can be found in the Archives Reference Collection. The collection includes things like:
- Dalhousie Gazette
- University Calendars
- Some records from student groups and other campus organizations
- Records from Dalhousie convocations
- Other records relating to the history of Dalhousie University
To access these materials, you wont need a fonds number or file number. You can just visit the Reading Room and ask for the item you are looking for (e.g., 1965 yearbook or issues of the Gazette from 1923).