As well as detailed descriptions of the individual documents, the online catalogue also includes descriptions of entire collections. Archive catalogues are structured in terms of "levels." It may be helpful to imagine the filing system of a computer, with folders and sub-folders corresponding to levels and sub-levels. The main levels are:

Fonds level: The whole of the collection, organically created and/or accumulated and used by a particular person, family, or corporate body in the course of that creator's activities and functions. The fonds level provides an overview and a summary of the contents of each archive collection, e.g. the Mothers’ Hospital collection.

Sub-Fonds level: A subdivision of the fonds level, e.g. Medical Records of St Bartholomew’s Hospital Series level (sub-series, sub-sub-series): A series of records within the collection, e.g. Female Admission Registers.

File level: This will refer to a number of items grouped together usually because they were originally organised as such or have been grouped together by an archivist.

Item level: The individual document or artefact. If you are interested in viewing or ordering a copy, you will need to state the Reference Number listed at item level when you contact us.

Description: This catalogue field provides a detailed description of the scope and contents of a collection, file or item.

Administrative History: This catalogue field provides contextual information about the collection or group of records (or sometimes the individual item). This includes historical information about the institution that created the collection or biographical information about the individual who created the collection.

Extent: This catalogue field provides information about the quantity of material which is being described (e.g. 2 boxes, 1 volume 5 linear metres). This will give some idea of how long it may take to search.

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