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Interdisciplinary Studies


Archives can be held by public and private institutions and also individuals.  These repositories house archival materials  which are considered the documentary by-products of a person or organization that is retained for their long-term value. These materials can create a window into the past and can come in many forms including written materials, photographs, videos or movies, sound files, personal objects, etc.

The materials housed in archives are generally considered primary sources.  Primary sources are evidence from the past of a particular event.


How to Cite Archival Materials


Collection: A group of documents of any provenance that is intentionally assembled based on subject, form, geographic scope, or some other common characteristic.

Finding Aid: – 1. A tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records. – 2. A description of records that helps users gain access to and understand a fonds or collection of archival materials.

Fonds: The entire body of records of an organization, family, or individual that have been created and accumulated as the result of an organic process. Fonds are typically arranged into:

  • Series - Documents arranged systematically or maintained as a unit because they relate to a particular function or subject, result from the same activity, have a particular form, or because of some other relationship arising out of their creation or, arising out of their receipt and use. Many series contain groups of related papers that can be grouped under sub-series.

  • File - An organized unit of documents, usually within a series, brought together because they relate to the same subject, activity, or transaction.

  • Item -  An archival unit that can be distinguished from a group and that is complete in itself. Items are usually found within files.

Provenance: – 1. The origin or source of something. – 2. Information regarding the origins, custody, and ownership of an item or group of items.

Reference Code: The unique identifier for a given item or group of items. This code is usually required when accessing archival materials on-site in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room. 

These definitions were borrowed from the Dalhousie University Library Guide on Archival Research

How to Find Archives