Search Help

Search Topics


Remember: To search an exact item or title, enclose the number or title in quotation marks (e.g. "G-1995-001: 6163").


Basic Search

There are three ways to do basic searches.

1. Search all holdings

You can do a basic search of all of our records using the “Search all holdings” box on the Welcome page.

You can enter any number of words in this box. The system automatically adds an AND between each word. For example, if you enter bear lake the system will search for any description that includes the words bear and lake. For ways to adjust your search, see Search Hints.

2. Search box

You can also do a basic search of our records using the Search box in the blue bar at the top of the page.

As with the “Search all holdings” box, you can enter any number of words in this box.

You may see a drop-down of suggestions when you type words into this Search box. These suggestions include archival descriptions (descriptions of records in our holdings), as well as descriptions of people and organizations whose records we hold.

Remember the drop-down list is only a suggestion. Try searching to discover more. Once you have typed in your search terms, press enter or click the search button to see more results.

3. Photos only search

To search only for photos, enter your words in the “Search for photographs only” box on the Welcome page.

Advanced Search

The advanced search allows you to do more complex searches. There are three ways to access advanced search options.

1. Welcome page link

Click on the “Advanced search” box on the Welcome page, found below the “Search for photographs only” box.

2. Search box (blue bar) link

Click on “Advanced search” in the Search box in the blue bar at the top of the page.

3. Advanced search options from any results page

Click on “Advanced search options” from any results page.

Using Advanced Search

You can broaden or narrow your search results using the advanced search filters. All three ways of accessing the advanced search (outlined above) will give you the same filter options.

Add new criteria

You can add keywords and narrow by search field. You can also choose how to specify your search by selecting one of the operators: AND, OR, NOT. You can add multiple lines to include more search criteria.

Filter your results

You can filter your results by using the drop-down options to choose level of description (e.g., fonds, collection, accession, series, file, or item), presence of a digital object (i.e. a digital copy), or type of record (e.g., sound recording or textual record). Finding aids are added as digital objects and can be found using the digital object drop-down option.

You can also choose to view only top-level descriptions (fonds, collection, and some accessions) or all descriptions (fonds, collection, accession, series, file, item). Note that the default option selected is all descriptions.

You can also filter your results by their dates of creation. You can search for records that overlap with the date range you have in mind, or for records that have dates that fall exactly within the range you are looking for.

The calendar popups only display a limited range of dates. To search for dates outside that range, type the date in the box as year-month-day, e.g., 1915-01-31 for January 31, 1915.

Browse By

You can browse records by selecting the Browse button next to the Search Box, or by selecting from the list on the left-hand side of the home screen.

You can browse by archival description, people and organizations, and different record types (photographs, documents, audio recordings, video recordings, and maps).

Search within archival descriptions, people and organizations, or record types

Archival descriptions

When browsing archival descriptions, you can search them using the Advanced Search filter. Note that by default, the browse function displays only top-level descriptions (fonds, collections, and some accessions). To ensure you see all the results, select the “All descriptions” filter in the Advanced Search.

People and organizations

When browsing people and organizations, you can search them by using the filters on the left hand side of the screen.

There is also an advanced search form with some additional filter options. Note that this form does not provide the same filter options as the Advanced Search form, but some filter options are provided in both forms.

Record types

When browsing by record types, you can search them using the Advanced Search filter. The “General material designation” drop-down option will be set to the technical term equivalent of the record type you selected in the “Browse” menu. The table below outlines the everyday and technical term pairs.

Everyday term (“Browse by” menu option) Technical term (“General material designation” drop-down option)
Photographs Graphic material
Documents Textual record
Audio recordings Sound recording
Video recordings Moving images
Maps Cartographic material

For example, if you browsed by “photographs”, the General material designation filter would be pre-filled with “Graphic material” as below.

To get back to results with all record types, select the blank option at the top of the list under “General material designation”.

Search Results

How to sort results

You can sort your results by choosing an option from the “Sort by” drop-down menu and the “Direction” drop-down menu on the right hand side of your screen.

The various sorting options available are explained in the table below.



Menu Option Explanation
Sort by Relevance How closely the record description matches your search word(s) and filter options, if used.
Title The title of a description at any level (fonds, collection, accession, series, file, or item). E.g., June Helm fonds (fonds level), Sound recordings (series level).
Identifier The number or alphanumeric combination associated with a description at any level (fonds, collection, accession, series, file, or item). E.g., 79 (fonds level), N-1987-017 (accession level), N-1987-017: 0121 (item level).
Reference code On the NWT Archives site, this is the same as “Identifier” above.
Start date The earliest date that applies to the record(s). For example, the start date of the Henry Busse fonds is 1944.
End date The latest date that applies to the record(s). For example, the end date of the Henry Busse fonds is 1968.
Date modified The date the description entry was last changed.
Direction Ascending Displays results from top to bottom (e.g., alphabetically or numerically). Works with the selection chosen under “Sort by”.

Combining “Title” and “Ascending” will show you all results in alphabetical order by title.

Combining “Identifier” and “Ascending” will show you all results in numerical order, from the fonds number down to the item level catalogue number.
Descending Displays results from bottom to top (e.g., in reverse alphabetical or numerical order). Works with the selection chosen under “Sort by”.

Combining “Title” and “Descending” will show you all results in reverse alphabetical order by title.

Combining “Identifier” and “Descending” will show you all results in reverse numerical order, from the item level catalogue number up to the fonds number.

The records hierarchy

Within each record’s description, you can see the record hierarchy – how the record relates to the others in the same group. Records are described in a hierarchy with fonds, collections, or sometimes accessions as the highest level of description, followed by accessions (if the highest level was a fonds), series, file, and item. Not all records hierarchies will include all levels of description. Two examples of possible records hierarchies are below.

In your search results, you can navigate between levels of description by clicking on each record’s description within the hierarchy. Use the + and - symbols to expand or collapse the levels of description.

Ensure you read all sections of the record description so that you understand the record(s) at that level of description. The Scope and Content will tell you what is found at that level of description. The Notes area has helpful information such as whether there are any copyright or access restrictions, and if the records are available in other formats.

For more information about copyright, see the Copyright page.

Display of digitized/non-digitized items

Items that have been digitized will display in the results list with either a thumbnail image of the digitized item or an icon representing the media type if no thumbnail is available. A partial description of the item will also be visible.

When you click on the link to the item-level description, the image will display below the record hierarchy, larger and in the centre of the screen.

You will be able to see all the details of the item-level description below the digitized item.

Reviewing digital finding aids

As mentioned in the Advanced Search section, the NWT Archives does not use the finding aid drop-down filter option. NWT Archives finding aids are instead attached to descriptions as digital objects.

If any digital object (whether a finding aid or a digitized record) contains searchable text, the digital object will be searched and will show up in your results list. If the digital object does not have searchable text, it will not be searched. However, you can still view the digital object either as a PDF finding aid or as an image.

To view the finding aid or digitized record, click on the digital object area. Another window will open up with the item that you can look through.

How to create a shortlist of records

To keep track of records you wish to view, you can add them to the clipboard. For details, see Using the Clipboard.

Search Hints

You should try to make your searches as specific as possible. The best way to do this is to use "Boolean" searches. The table below outlines useful Boolean operators to use in your searches.

Operator Description
AND Used between keywords to give narrower results. E.g., Inuvik AND aerial will produce a list of descriptions with both Inuvik and aerial in the description.

By default, the system will interpret multiple words as if they had AND between them.
OR Used between keywords to give broader results. E.g., Holman OR Ulukhaktok will produce a list of descriptions with either Holman or Ulukhaktok (or both) in the description.
NOT Used between keywords to exclude results. E.g., mine NOT Giant will produce a list of descriptions with the word mine but will not include descriptions with both Giant and mine in them.
( ) Use with other Boolean operators to create more complex searches. E.g., education (guide OR handbook) will produce a list of descriptions that include education and guide as well as education and handbook (but not guide and handbook without education).
“ “ Used to search an exact phrase. E.g., “Rene Fumoleau” will produce a list of descriptions that include Rene Fumoleau in that specific order. (“Fumoleau Rene” will not appear in your results list if you have searched for “Rene Fumoleau”.)

You will also need to use quotation marks around special characters, such as when searching for a specific item number. E.g., “N-2018-010: 0001”.
* Used as a multiple character wild card. E.g., trap* will produce a list of descriptions that include trap, traps, trappers, trapping, traplines, etc.

NOTE: Without the *, your results list will only include exactly what you typed (i.e. a list of descriptions that include only trap).
? Used as a single character wild card. E.g., licen?e will produce a list of descriptions that include licence or license.

For more Boolean operators, see the Advanced Search Guide for AtoM and scroll to the Boolean Operators section.

Alternative Names

The spellings of people’s and place names in the Northwest Territories have changed a great deal over the years. In addition to spelling variations, the names of many communities have officially reverted to original Indigenous language names - and this process is ongoing. Below are some search strategies for alternative names.

Type of name Search strategy
People’s names Use the OR: Cotchilly OR Kotchilea would produce a list of descriptions that includes both Cotchilly and Kotchilea.
Use the wild card (*). To do this, place an asterisk where one or more missing letters is in your search: *otchil* would produce a list of descriptions that includes Cotchilly, Cotchillie, Cotchilley, Kotchille, and Kotchilea.
Place names To produce the most complete list of results possible, use OR to include both current and former names, e.g., “Fort Norman” OR Tulita.

For the Official and Traditional Community Names with Pronunciation Guide, click here.

For more search tips, see Search Hints.

Using the Clipboard

Adding records to the clipboard

To save a record for later viewing, you can add it to your clipboard. To add a record to your clipboard, click the “Add” button under Clipboard in the record’s description on the right hand side of the screen.

The total number of records you add to your clipboard will be shown with a number icon next to the paperclip icon at the top of the page.

Navigating to the clipboard

To go to your clipboard, click on the paperclip icon at the top of the page and select “Go to clipboard”.

Saving the clipboard

You can save your clipboard (select “Save clipboard”), which will give you a clipboard ID number.

You can also save your clipboard when in the clipboard list by clicking on the “Save” button at the bottom of the page.

Loading the clipboard

To load a previously saved clipboard, go to “Load clipboard” and enter the clipboard ID.

You can choose to either merge your existing clipboard your previously saved clipboard, or to replace your existing clipboard results with your saved clipboard results. Then click “load” to load your clipboard.

Removing items from the clipboard

There are three ways to remove records individually from your clipboard.

1. Click the “Remove” button at the record level. The button will then change back to the “Add” button.

2. Click the highlighted paperclip icon in a list of search results. The paperclip will no longer be highlighted after you have clicked it.

3. Click the highlighted paperclip icon in your clipboard list. The paperclip will no longer be highlighted after you have clicked it, as shown in the example below.

Resetting the clipboard

You can reset your entire clipboard by selecting “Clear all selections” or by selecting “Clear archival description clipboard” at the bottom of the clipboard list itself.

Ordering items using the clipboard list

To help you with ordering items, email your clipboard ID to the NWT Archives. First, make sure your clipboard includes only the items you want to order, then contact us with the clipboard ID and any specifics relating to your order. For more details about ordering, visit the Ordering Copies page on our main site.

Exporting the clipboard list

You can export the list of items in your clipboard as either a CSV (comma-separated values) or an XML (extensible markup language) file. Click on the “Export” button at the bottom of the clipboard page.

Select either CSV or XML. There is also an option for including descendants, which are the lower level descriptions of records.

If you click “Include descendants”, you will be presented with the option of selecting either all the descendants or only some of them. For example, if you have a fonds in your clipboard that includes accessions, series, files, and items, “Include descendants” will select all of those records, or you can choose to select only the descriptions you want – such as files and items.

Accuracy of Information About the Records

We do our best to make sure that the information associated with our records is accurate; however, we do depend on other people for that information.

Item captions come from two sources: direct copies of captions (usually written by the people who originally created or owned the records) and information provided by archivists. The information provided by archivists is usually in square brackets [like this].

For reasons of historical authenticity, direct copies of captions are unedited. They may contain inaccuracies or terms that would now be considered inappropriate or offensive. Spellings of both people’s and place names have changed with time, so some inaccuracies and inconsistencies will persist in captions. Descriptions are always under review as better information becomes available.

If you have spotted an inaccuracy with a description, or have something to add, please let us know.

For digitized items, this can be done by clicking on the "Send comments or additional information on this item" link on the left hand side of the item-level description page. We especially welcome new or additional identifications for the people in our photos.

For other items, please contact us with the item number and a description of the update needed.

What To Do If You Do Not Find What You Are Looking For

There are many records in the archives which have not been described at the item level, but that are discoverable through keywords at a higher descriptive level. Some archival records have only been described at a fonds or accession level, rather than describing every item within the fonds or accession. This is especially true for government records. For example, a search for forest* will produce a list of many item level results including the words forest or forests, but will also produce accession level and fonds level results that include the same words.

Note that some item level descriptions may not be immediately visible in your search results. To ensure your results list includes descriptions from all descriptive levels, select the “All descriptions” filter in the advanced search options.

We have over 600,000 photographs in the NWT Archives, so only a fraction are available online. There are descriptions for many images that have not yet been digitized. You can still order the photo from the description or come in and view the original (with advance notice).

Please contact us if your database search does not produce what you were looking for so that we may assist you.