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Guide to Archival Research

A guide on using archival materials held in the University Archives

How is Archival Material Organized?

Archival Materials are typically organized into fonds.  A fonds is the entire body of records of an organization, family, or individual that have been created and accumulated as the result of an organic process.

Each fonds is assigned a call number.  Sometimes we call them fonds numbers or location numbers.  These numbers help us locate the materials in the archives and they help us organize information about the fonds.

Each file or group of files in a fonds is also assigned a reference code.  Sometimes they are called Box-Folder numbers.  These numbers help us locate individual files within a fonds. They are also an essential part of a citation.

Each fonds is kept separately from other fonds to prevent the records from becoming intermingled and disorganized.  Fonds are then sub-divided in a hierarchical structure consisting of "series," "sub-series," "files," and "items."

A typical fonds at Dalhousie University Archives might look like:

Diagram of a fonds