[This blog post was written by Colin Reeve, Appraisal Archivist in the Records Analysis Unit, Government Records Section.]
An archive can have the greatest material, but without the means for researchers to identify and locate items, it becomes a lot of boxes stored on shelves rather than a usable collection. The Discover Online Catalog (DOC) allows users to locate items by searching on different types of bibliographic information.
Firstly, what is bibliographic information?
If we think of looking for research materials as a kind of journey, biographic information provides routes to locating the materials using signposts created by the archivist.
Figure 1 shows the DOC search screen (displaying advanced options) and the various ways a search can be narrowed down. The column on the left of the screen allows users to filter their search by where the records are held, who created them, and (not shown in the screenshot) the search level, type of collection, and date ranges. The main part of the screen allows users to make a more focused search, by using specific date ranges, creator names, title, subject, and so on.
Such a search will display a list of results, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Here, searching for civil action papers created by Buncombe County has yielded 5 results (though only the first 3 are visible in the screenshot.) Five results are manageable, but a larger number could be further narrowed down by date range and so on.
For each result, the creator is identified, the record ID is shown, and there is a brief description of the scope and contents. This level of description may be enough for a researcher to identify the required materials, but if it is not, clicking on the underlined title yields additional bibliographic information as Figure 3 shows.
The extent of the record (i.e., how much “stuff” is actually archived) is now shown. This is important information if a researcher is contemplating a long journey to the archive; does the extent make the trip worthwhile? And talking of making a trip, the location of the repository is also now identified, so the researcher knows where the record is physically held.
The full scope and contents are now displayed, describing the specific sources of the records, and how the records arranged; in this case chronologically, but materials may also be arranged alphabetically, or not ordered at all. Additional subgroupings are described, as are any subseries. In the example illustrated, civil actions concerning land are filed separately, and these are shown as child records. Also shown are subject headings associated with the record. Researchers can use these subject headings in subsequent searches to locate similar records.
Once they are satisfied that the searching has yielded the required materials, a researcher can then request them using the Record ID number and/or the Container ID.
Prepared by Colin Reeve (email@example.com); posted by Kelly Policelli.