The Structure of Archive Collections
The Archive Service and the William Salt Library, Stafford, both hold many archive collections, each of which contains the records created, used or collected by an individual, family or organisation. Archivists catalogue these collections to reflect the nature of the business or activities of the creators of the records. Placing archives in the context in which they were created helps researchers to assess and interpret the information that they contain.
The larger the collection of records, the more complicated the structure of its catalogue is likely to be. A large collection may be divided into a number of Sections, each having SubSections, then Series, SubSeries, and finally Items. Each of these is known as a Level in the Catalogue.
We have tried to ensure that there is a maximum of five levels below the Collection level, but in large complex collections this has not always been possible. An example from the Sutherland papers is given below, with the principal levels highlighted by the use of bold type:
- Collection : Papers of the Sutherland-Leveson-Gower family, Dukes of Sutherland, Earls Gower, etc.
- Section : Maps, plans and surveys
- SubSection : Coal mining and engineering drawings
- Series : Staffordshire coalfields
- SubSeries : Longton area, ps. Stoke upon Trent and Trentham
- Item : Foley colliery : section of the Deep Crut at No.8 Ashmine Pit
- Piece : (not used in this example, but may be used for individual pages in a volume, or individual sheets in a bundle which cannot be requested separately)
When you make a search for archives in the Online Catalogue the results that you obtain may include records at different levels in the catalogue structure.