As many of you will have noticed, there is a new archives collection search database.  It uses a system called AtoM (Access to Memory) which is also used by City of Vancouver Archives, UBC Rare Books and Special Collections, SFU Archives, the World Bank and others.  It is quite different from the old “blue and white site” with which we have become familiar, and with which – with all its faults – we have become comfortable.   However, the old search site, dating back to the early years of the internet, will soon be gone, having survived longer than most websites.

    Detailed instructions for the new system are available as well as a brief search guide, but for those who have used the old site, the following search tips may be useful.

    >Use * (instead of ?) as a wild card (e.g. judg* to retrieve judge, judgement, judgment, judging, etc.), and ? (instead of #) for single character substitution (e.g. ver?g?n will find Veregin, Verigan, Verigen as well as the more common spelling of Verigin).

    >Use AND (all caps) to combine terms (e.g. alma AND russell) and quotation marks to specify an exact match (e.g. “alma russell”) Otherwise the search will be treated as an OR, i.e. match any terms, search. For example, alma russell will retrieve descriptions with Alma Russell as a phrase and with both Alma and Russell somewhere in the description (not adjacent), but also records with only Alma and with only Russell.

    >With the exception of the Identifier field in Advanced Search, search terms can be in upper or lowercase. When using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) – which must be in uppercase – enter the entire search statement in uppercase if you wish to avoid having to shift from lower to upper case, e.g. ALMA AND RUSSELL AND WAR.

    >Enclose any term or number with a hyphen or other special character in quotation marks, e.g. “MS-0055”, “I-00204”, “e/c/w96a”. Otherwise the hyphen, slash, etc. will be ignored. For example, if MS-0055 is searched without quotation marks (other than in the Identifier field), the results will include records descriptions with only ms (or MS) and only 0055 present as well as those with both.

    >The Identifier field option in Advanced search is unique in that it is not only case sensitive but it does not require quotation marks to search a number with hyphens designated as an identifier (e.g. call number, accession number, item number). A string of such numbers can be entered with spaces in between to search on any of the terms entered, e.g. MS-0054 MS-0055 G-02580 G-02581 G-02582. Note that not all numbers are considered identifiers, e.g. HP photo numbers are only searchable in a basic or Any Field search.

    >Use the General material designation filter in Advanced search to limit results to one type of record, e.g. textual, sound, etc. By default the system searches all types (except library material and vital event records which are in separate databases).
    Limit search results to series level descriptions to view textual records at the same level as the blue and white site. If you know the MS or GR numbers, use the Identifier search option in Advanced Search which will also yield only the series level description. Similarly, a PR number will produce only the fonds level description.

    >When viewing an individual series level record description use the Quick Search feature in the left-hand column to search for specific lower-level record descriptions. If the series level description has an attached finding aid (in the Notes area), click on the link to open the PDF and use CTRL-F to search for specific files or items.

    Next: Basic search vs Advanced search

    Frederike Verspoor

    BC Archives


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