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How to use the Archive Catalogue

The Archive Catalogue is the main way to find items in the Manuscripts collection which can then be ordered to view in the Caird Library reading room, or to purchase digital copies for private study.

Each item has a finding reference consisting of a prefix (usually three letters) indicating the collection it belongs to, then a number indicating its exact place within that collection. The finding reference will link to a title and description, details of the creator and date made (if known), a hierarchy showing connected records, and ordering options. There are also tools for saving, tagging and sharing search results.

Basic searches

Terms can be entered into the search field as follows:

  • Keywords (e.g. ‘lifeboat’)
  • Phrases (e.g. ‘High Court of Admiralty’)
  • Finding references (e.g. ‘ADM/L/C/50’)
  • Wildcards (*) in place of unknown characters or where variations exist in spelling (e.g. ‘M*donald’ will bring up matches for both ‘McDonald’ and ‘MacDonald’)

Hints and tips

  • If you already have a finding reference, ticking the ‘Finding reference’ box will ensure that your search goes straight to the relevant record.
  • A search for a collection prefix with the ‘Finding reference’ box ticked will display an overview of the whole collection, for example the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. material with prefix P&O.
  • When using more than one keyword, it is sometimes more effective to carry out consecutive searches, with the ‘Search within results’ box ticked.
  • A wildcard after an incomplete finding reference can be used to display a series of records.  For example, a search for ‘LOG/C*’ with the ‘Finding reference’ box ticked will list a whole series of log books from East India Company ships.

Additional options

Keyword searches can be combined with the following options:

  • The ‘Catalogue section’ field has a drop-down menu that enables searches to be limited to a particular section of the archive. This makes it easier to search for manuscripts of a particular type, for example, a personal diary or journal, typically found in Section 4 or Section 6, or the staff records of a shipping company, typically found in Section 3.


  • The ‘Level’ field has a drop-down menu for selecting a particular level of the archival arrangement. In general, collection and series level records provide details of the scope and range of a sizeable amount of material, whereas item level records describe particular units of production.
  • The ‘Requestable items only’ box can also be ticked to filter out structural records and descriptions that don’t link directly to order buttons for particular items.
  • The ‘Date from’ field provides an option for searching by date range, or by a single date for the start or end of a period.
  • The filtering and tag tools can also be used to narrow down numbers of search results.

Advanced searches

A combination of the above tools can be used, for example:

Using the ‘Catalogue section’ and ‘Level’ fields it is possible to see a summary listing of a whole section of the archive, arranged by collection prefix, as in a conventional catalogue.

Letters between Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton can be found by consecutive searches. Enter the keyword ‘Nelson’ and limit the search to Section 5 (Artificial collections), then click on the search button. Put a tick in the ‘Search within results’ box, enter the keyword ‘Emma’ and search again.

Papers of naval officers during the Seven Years’ War can be found by a search limited to Section 4 (Personal collections) and the date range 1756 to 1763.

Sorting and saving search results

By default, search results are listed by finding reference (alphabetically then numerically), and displayed in ‘text only view’. The order can be reversed by clicking on the ‘Finding ref’ column header. The ‘image and text view’ and ‘image view’ buttons are useful for items with images attached to their descriptions.

Searches in any part of the Collections website can be saved by clicking the 'save this search' link at top right. You will need to be registered and logged into My Collections to do this. By logging in you will also be able to save individual records in your own personal collection and add tags. In addition, individual catalogue records can be shared via social media or embedded in your own website.

Using catalogue records

To view the full information and links for a particular catalogue record, click on the title or finding reference, both shown in blue. Its place in the hierarchy of related records is shown below the catalogue details.

To make a request for viewing or copying, click on the green ‘Order this item’ button on the right. Please note that if no order button is shown, you will need to see if the record is split into several parts, or included in a larger group for retrieval purposes. Items in the hierarchy that do have an order button are indicated by green textThe record for an individual item usually states the extent in terms of numbers of volumes, sheets, boxes, etc. If the item is currently unavailable for viewing in the Caird Library because it is on display in the RMG galleries, the location should appear in the record.

Please note that to place any requests for viewing or copying you will first need to register with Aeon. For more guidance on the ordering process please see here.

During the ordering process, search results from the Archive Catalogue can be saved in your Aeon account for future use by selecting the ‘Keep for my review’ option.


Some Manuscript items are stored offsite, or have particular access issues. When ordering, you may therefore encounter guidance concerning a longer notice period for retrieval, or a requirement to contact archive staff.