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This glossary provides an overview of some of the terms you may come across when searching for records in our catalogue.

Catalogue: The catalogue is a searchable database of the records we hold in our collection.

Record: An item or items (whether a document, photograph, film etc.) created in the course of the work of one of the organisations whose collections we hold.

Authority file: This is an entry in the catalogue providing background information about a person or an organisation with some connection to the records in our collection. The authority record will generally show what that connection is and will provide links to related records.

Level: The way our records appear in the catalogue reflects the structures that surrounded their creation. This is called "hierarchical description". The most common levels in our catalogue in decending order are:
  • Superfonds: records created by a class of organisation (e.g. the records of all private telegraph companies, or all the records of the Post Office throughout its history).
    • Fonds: records created by a specific organisation (e.g. the records of the ‘Electric and International Telegraph Company’, or the records of the Post Office when it was constituted as a public corporation, from 1969-1981).
      • SubFonds: records relating to a major, longstanding function of an organisation (e.g. the Engineering records of the Post Office, or the Sales and Marketing records).
        • SubSubFonds: records relating to a more specific function, or a particular unit, of an organisation (e.g. legal and regulatory records of the Post Office, or the records of the Engineer-in-Chief’s office).
          • Series: a group of records that originate together, or relate to the same activity (e.g. papers relating to legal claims against the Postmaster General, or theEngineer-in-Chief's Files on Cable Ships and Submarine Cables).
            • File: an individual volume or folder of records.
              • Item: an individual record.
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