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Wednesday, 6 May 2020

D-lightful lists!

Whilst the Record Office has been closed to the public, staff have still been busy working on projects and finding new ways for people to discover our collections online.  One project has been to improve the online listing of our D collections.

As our regular visitors know, we have paper listings available in the search room which break down our collections into individual items that can be requested by archive users.
However, many collections in these lists aren’t yet fully described on the online catalogue.  

The "D" paper list is one such example. It contains collections ranging from family papers and private correspondence to plans and crime and punishment logs. A quick search of “D” on the catalogue brings up over 21,000 entries!


We have been transcribing the detailed paper lists onto spreadsheets ready to be transferred onto the online catalogue:


Our regular users will be familiar with the catalogue. It has a hierarchical “tree” structure, with each descending level describing smaller and smaller parts of the collection in increasing detail.

It starts with a description giving the researcher an overview of the entire collection, known as “Fonds”:


The next level down, Section (Sub-fonds) divides the fonds into groupings of related records:

The fonds are then subdivided into multiple Series, for example deeds, maps, or in some cases "miscellaneous"!

Finally, the narrowest level is “Item”. This contains information such as the title, date and extent of the item as well as a concise description of what is contained within it.


Putting the D list collections onto the online catalogue in this way serves several important purposes: 

  • It makes detailed information about the collections more widely accessible to members of the public than before. 
  • It allows archive users to find individual items in a collection using the keyword search and assists them in planning their visit and requesting the exact items they wish to look at. 
  • Finally, it enables researchers to zoom in on the parts of a collection they are interested in without losing track of their relationship to the whole.

Whilst transcribing the paper lists we have come across many interesting collections and items. Over a series of blog posts we will be sharing with you some of these archives.

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