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.
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.
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, subjects, 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
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.
On the subjects browse page, an alphabetical listing appears in the left sidebar. Narrower (more specific) terms can be seen by clicking on the arrow to the left of the term. More terms can be seen by clicking on the three dots at the bottom of the sidebar.
You can also search for topics relating to subject headings using the search bar under the tag icon. Search rules from other parts of the database still apply, including the use of wildcards (*, ?), Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), and quotation marks around phrases (“”).
The table of subjects in the main part of the page can be sorted by name or date modified in either ascending or descending order using the drop down menus on the right side of the screen.
The table displays the subject heading in blue font. The number of archival descriptions and authority records (people, families, organizations, businesses, etc.) it is applied to display in the last two columns on the right.
To see archival descriptions linked to a subject heading, click on the subject heading name to bring up the complete entry. You will see a "scope note" giving more details about the topic the subject heading applies to, as well as several types of related subject headings (for more information, see Subject Headings). Scrolling down the page will display the list of results for the displayed term. Switch between archival descriptions and authority records using the tabs at the top of the page.
The results list can also be sorted and amended to exclude results linked to narrower terms. (In the example above, this would mean you could exclude results related to "Aircraft -- accidents".) From here, you can click on the title of the result to see the associated descriptive record or authority record.
The alphabetical list of subject headings and search bar are accessible by selecting the desired tab in the left sidebar of the subject heading record.
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.
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)
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”.
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.
|How closely the record description matches your search word(s) and filter options, if used.
|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).
|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).
|On the NWT Archives site, this is the same as “Identifier” above.
|The earliest date that applies to the record(s). For example, the start date of the Henry Busse fonds is 1944.
|The latest date that applies to the record(s). For example, the end date of the Henry Busse fonds is 1968.
|The date the description entry was last changed.
|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.
|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.
How to filter results
In the left sidebar of the search results page, there are filters which you can use to narrow your search. You can expand and collapse the filters using the arrows at the right of the grey bars.
Which filter options you see depends on your search results, because the database only shows options that can be used to narrow the search. For example, if you're browsing by Photographs, you won't see the Media type filter because your results only include one media type. Filter options that you might see include:
|Narrows the search to records that are part of a specific collection. Note that only the top ten collections with the most results for your search are listed.
|Narrows the search to records that were created by a specific person or organization. In general, only top-level records are linked to their creators, and clicking on a creator will usually narrow your search to just one result. For more information, see Archival Descriptions and the Records Hierarchy and People and Organizations.
|Narrows the search to records that are about (but not created by) a specific person or organization. Most of the records in our database are not linked to relevant names, so this filter is unlikely to be useful.
|Narrows the search to records that are linked to a specific subject. In our database, subjects are only linked to higher-level records and not to individual items, so this will limit your search to collections that contain a lot of material related to that topic and will miss any relevant records in collections that are mostly about other topics. Note that only the top ten subjects with the most results for your search are listed.
|Level of description
|Narrows the search results to records that are at a particular level in the records hierarchy. In general, individual photographs, sound or video recordings, and maps are items, and individual folders containing written records are files. See Archival Descriptions and the Records Hierarchy for more information about levels of description.
|Narrows the search results to records that have digital copies of a particular media type available. For example, you can narrow your results to just those with an image copy that you can see online, or just those with an audio copy you can listen to.
There are two ways to see and remove filters that are currently active. In the sidebar, active filters are shown in black, underlined text and can be removed by clicking on "All" at the top of the list for that filter. Active filters are also shown in small boxes at the top of the page, just above the advanced search bar, and can be removed by clicking the "x" on the relevant box.
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.
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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
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
|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.
|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
WARNING: Saved clipboards are deleted every Sunday evening. Print, export as a CSV file, or copy and paste to another application so your results are not lost.
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.
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.