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Glossary page

This page explains some of the archive terminology used in the catalogue, which may help you to better understand the results of your searches.

Reference Number
Like a library reference code, this number is used to distinguish an archival document from other documents with similar titles. If you wish to see something in the Archive, please quote the reference number(s) when you contact us to make an appointment. Please see the FAQs section of this web site for details of how to visit the University of Westminster Archive.

The online catalogue includes detailed descriptions of groups of archives, and sometimes also of the individual documents within those groups.

The University of Westminster Archives are divided into groups called 'Fonds' (for records generated by the University and its predecessors) or 'Collections' (for records generated by clubs, societies or individuals). These can then be sub-divided if needed into sections or sub-fonds, and then into series and sub-series, files, and items. The archive term for this is Level, and it explains where a catalogue record sits in the structure.

The Levels currently used in our catalogues are explained below. Of these, File and Item level records are those that you are most likely to want to request to see as they represent individual items in the collection. The other Levels are there to provide adminsitrative context for the individual files and items.

Fonds level/Collection level : The whole of the collection, 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. The fonds level record provides an overview and a summary of the contents of each archive collection, e.g. Polytechnic Touring Association or Leslie Baily.

Section level: Section-level records are used to sub-divide a Fonds into areas of top level function or activity, e.g. Financial records or Publications. Occasionally a SubSection level may also be used.

Series level : A series of records within the collection, grouped together either by theme, format, origin or function, e.g. Frank Short's correspondence or Academic Council Papers. Occasionally a SubSeries level may also be used.

File level : File-level is used in the catalogue for an organised group of documents put together by the record creator, where there is an obvious connection between the documents, e.g. Hon Secretary's Correspondence.

Item level : Item-level records describe individual documents, pamphlets, volumes, or objects within the archive collections, that have not been received as part of a file put together by a record creator. Usually this is the smallest intellectually indivisible archival unit within the series, e.g. a single letter or photograph.

Piece level: Piece-level records are used for documents which would not be produced for researchers on their own because they form part of a file or item, but where it is desirable to record additional information about them for research use, or for security. There are two main uses. Firstly, to record enclosures found in a volume, and secondly, to detail the documents within a file due to their significance or value.

This is either the title as it appears on the original record, or a concise summary of the description.

This is the date of the record. Dates are always in the order of day-month-year. Where an exact date is not known, an approximate year date is given. The abbreviation 'c.' is used to mean 10 years either side of the year given.

This field provides information about the quantity of material which is being described (e.g. 2 boxes, 1 volume). Please check this field before requesting to see archive material, in case the reference number you have requested refers to a very large amount.

This field provides as much information as possible about the record.

This describes the physical format of the record. Examples include: manuscript, typescript, postcard and artefact.

Access Status
This field details whether a record is available for consultation by a researcher at the Archive. Reasons for closure include depositors wishes, Data Protection concerns and preservation reasons (e.g. no suitable viewing equipment for audiovisual records).

This field is only used for photographs, and records the name of the photographer or photographic agency, where known.

Photographic Format
Describes the original format of the photograph held by the archives.

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