Archival Descriptions and the Records Hierarchy
Archival records are described in a records hierarchy, with smaller groups of records under the larger groups that contain them. At the top of each record’s description, you can see how the record relates to the others in the same group. The highest level of description is a fonds, collection, or sometimes accession, which includes all the records we have from one person, family, or organization. This highest level is divided into accessions (groups of records transferred to the archives as a unit) or series (groups of records which are related by topic or function), which then break down further into individual files and items. Not all records hierarchies will include all levels of description. Two examples of possible records hierarchies are below.
When you look at archival descriptions in our database, 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.
Digitized Items and PDF Finding Aids
Display of digitized/non-digitized items
In the search results list, items that have been digitized will display 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.
People and Organizations
As well as descriptions of archival records, our database also includes descriptions of the people and organizations who created the archival records. The technical term for these descriptions of people and organizations is "authority records".
Information that you can find in the authority records in our database includes:
- Links to descriptions of records that the person or organization created
- Alternate names that the person or organization is known by
- Birth and death dates for a person, or the dates an organization was founded and dissolved
- A brief biography or corporate history
- Links to related people or organizations
- Links to related subjects
Not all authority records have all this information. In fact, many of the authority records in our database are "stubs" that only contain the person's or organization's name and links to the records that they created. Gradually these descriptions will be filled in as we find time to research and write them.
Subject headings are standardized terms used to describe the topics that records are related to. Using standardized words and phrases for these topics helps eliminate difficulties with synonyms, near synonyms, and variations in spelling.
In our database subject headings are linked at the upper levels of description (fonds, collections, and some accessions). Our list of subject headings only includes topics that you can find records related to in our holdings. The terms we use are often based on subject heading lists from other archives and libraries, including the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), Canadian Subject Headings (CSH), and Provincial Archives of Alberta Subject Headings (PAASH).
The purpose of the subject headings in our database is to make it easy to browse for related materials. As such, we have tried to use broad terms so as to include more resources under each heading, rather than have very specific terms that describe the exact topic covered by each resource. As well, when a resource relates to two different subjects, we have applied overlapping terms rather than using sub-headings as you may have seen in library catalogues. For example, rather than applying a term "Inuit -- Art", we would apply two terms, "Inuit" and "Art and artists". (You can search for a combination of subject headings in the Advanced Search interface by using Boolean operators and selecting Subject access points in the field dropdown.)
In the description of a subject heading, you may see several different types of related headings or terms:
- Subject headings are arranged in a hierarchy, with more specific subjects grouped under less specific subjects that include them. For example, the terms "Performing arts" and "Graphic arts" are included in the broader term (or BT) "Art and artists", while "Performing arts" itself includes several narrower terms (NTs) such as "Dance" and "Theatre".
- Equivalent terms that the displayed term is used for (often synonyms, alternative spellings, or outdated terms) are shown as UFs.
- Topics that are closely related, but not synonymous or linked in the hierarchy, are shown as associated or related terms (RTs). For example, the term "Museums" is related to "Art and artists", since art is often displayed in museums.
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.