This alphabetical word list provides informal definitions of technical terms used on this website.


An acquisition of archival material belonging to a fonds or collection already in the custody of a repository. Material being added to an already existing fonds or collection.

Administrative history

This provides biographical or historical details about the creator or creators of the collection. This can help to give you historical context for the material, and provide extra details to allow you to identify people with similar names.

Archival description

An archival description is a body of information about an archival record or records. The descriptions provide contextual information about the archival materials and are arranged into hierarchical levels (fonds, series, files, items).

Archival history

Archival history outlines the 'chain of ownership' or 'provenance (origin)' of the material in the collection - who has owned it, and how it came to be acquired by the repository.

Authority record

Authority records are collections of information about actors - corporate bodies, persons, or families - who interact with archival materials, typically as creators.

Browse menu

Browsing allows a user to see all records that have a certain type of access point (such as subject, name, or place) or other type of filter, such as media type or type of entity.

ca. (circa)

Is used to indicate an approximate date or quantity.


The Clipboard is a user interface element that allows users to select records while searching and browsing, and add them to a list (the “clipboard”), for later review or further action. The clipboard is session-based - meaning that it does not persist between user sessions. When you close your browser, any results on the clipboard will be lost. However, users have the option of saving clipboard results, which can then be loaded in a future session.

Clipboard menu

The Clipboard menu appears in the Mission Community Archives Digital Repository header bar for all users. It is represented by a paperclip icon, and allows users to manage Clipboard selections as they navigate around the application.


The organisational, functional, and operational circumstances surrounding the creation, receipt, storage, or use of a collection of materials. This information can inform the user about the evidential value of the materials.


Different than a fonds, it is a group of documents of any origin that is intentionally assembled based on subject, form, geographic scope, or some other common characteristic by a person or organization rather than the creator. A collection may be a single item (letter, diary, film etc.), or it may be made up of many items.

Corporate body

A corporate body is defined as “an organization or association of persons that is identified by a particular name and that acts, or may act, as an entity. Typical examples of corporate bodies are societies, institutions, business firms, non-profit enterprises, governments, government agencies, religious bodies, places of worship, and conferences.”

Creation date

Creation date shows the date (or dates) when the materials were created - they may pre-date the formation of the collection.


A creator is “any entity (corporate body, family or person) that created, accumulated and/or maintained records in the conduct of personal or corporate activity.”

Digital object

Digital objects can be uploaded files, such as scanned images, digital photographs, sound and moving images files, and other scanned or born digital items that have been uploaded for viewing in the Archives Online Search. Digital objects may be a digital surrogate (digitized copy) of an original hard copy or may be born digital material. Born digital refers to materials that were created as digital entities, rather than physical materials that have been digitised.

Digital repository

Digital repositories are information systems that ingest, store, manage, preserve, and provide access to digital content.

Extent and medium

Extent provides information about the quantity of materials in the collection, or the physical space they occupy. This information can help you to decide how long to allow for a visit to the archive.

Medium refers to the material that serves as the carrier of the content of a record i.e. a particular form of storage for digitized information, such as slides, photographs, magnetic tape, or discs etc.

Finding aid

A finding aid is a tool for discovering information about a fonds or collection. Finding aids help researchers learn more about specific sets of records and their relevancy or appropriateness for their research.


Fonds is an archival unit defined as “The whole of the records, regardless of form or medium, 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.” Other archives may describe the same thing as a "collection."

Graphic material

Graphic materials are defined as documents in the form of pictures, photographs, drawings, watercolours, prints, and other forms of two-dimensional pictorial representations.


A system or arrangement in which people, groups, or things are ranked one above the other according to status, importance, or authority.

A collection is arranged in order to show context. This means that it will be catalogued to preserve its original order where possible. The collection will be arranged into sub-sections, such as series, files, items, and these will all be clearly related. An archival description should show the hierarchy if it is catalogued to this level of detail, commonly through a table of contents with a folder type structure. The researcher can then see the context of an individual item, such as a letter - they can see that it forms part of a series, and the series is within a larger collection.


A record is “recorded information in any form or medium, created or received and maintained, by an organization or person in the transaction of business or the conduct of affairs” such as minute books, registers, deeds, agreements, contracts etc.

Reference code

A reference code is a unique identifier string (code) associated with an archival description, created through the combination of inherited identifiers from other related entities. It is often letters, a sequence of numbers, or a combination of both.

Scope and content

A summarizing statement giving the characteristics of the materials being described, the functions and activities that produced them, and the types of information contained therein. It allows you to judge the potential relevance of the archival collection which should provide a general overview of the subjects covered in the collection or fonds.

Search box

The search box is used to find descriptions in the digital repository that contain text matching a search query. The search box is located in the header bar on all digital repository pages, including the home page.

Sound recordings

The act or process of making a record of sound onto a storage medium.


A Subject is a significant topic or theme represented in a collection using controlled vocabulary (pre-defined/authorized terms) used to generate lists and access points for searching.

Top-level description filter

The top-level description filter appears on the search and browse pages for archival descriptions. It limits the returned results to those descriptions without any parents - that is, those that are not part of a hierarchy with any records higher than them in the hierarchy.


The treeview is a contextual and navigation element that shows the current record’s relationships to other records, with links, e.g. the hierarchical placement of archival descriptions within a fonds, or the hierarchical placement of a term (such as a subject or place).

Textual records

Textual records are written records, whether handwritten, typescript, published, or generated by any other means, which are accessible to the naked eye without the aid of a machine.


Access to Memory Glossary

Archives Hub Glossary

Dictionary of Archives Terminology

Cambridge Dictionary