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Finding archives and local studies collections

This guide has been created to help you find archives and local studies collections on our online catalogue.

Our online catalogue is not a complete list of what we have. We’re constantly adding new items to the database, so make sure to check regularly. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch

Please note that we are currently limiting enquiries and are not accepting any face-to-face visits as we prepare for a re-location to Stockroom in late 2024.

Page contents:

  • Finding local history books and folders
  • Finding photographs
  • Finding archives
  • Finding other local heritage materials
  • Additional archives tips and guidance
    • What are archives and how do they differ from local studies collections?
    • Understanding archive levels of description
    • How to see the full overview of an archive's contents


    Finding local history books and folders

     

    Using quick search:

    Enter a keyword, title or author in the search bar - see here for full instructions

    Restricting your search to Heritage Library items only:

    • Click on Advanced Search before entering your keyword
    • Select Library Catalogue from the menu on the left-hand side, and then click on Advanced from the drop-down menu underneath it
    • Under Location, select Heritage Library
    • Now type in your title, author or keyword in the appropriate field(s)
    • Hit Search

    If preferred, you can narrow down the list of search results by date, material or media type or other.

     

    Finding photographs

     

    You can search for photographs in the same way as you can search for archives, please see full instructions below. 

     

    Please bear with us while we are improving the search functionality to make it easier to find and filter photos. In the meantime, you can continue to use our Stockport Image Archive too to browse Stockport photographs and order copies.

     

    Finding archives


    Using quick search

    • Enter a keyword or name in the search bar
    • Before hitting Search, click on the drop-down menu under All resources and select Archives
    • Hit Search

    If preferred, you can now narrow down the search results by date, creator, material type or level of description in the menu on the left-hand side.

    Using advanced search

    • Click on Advanced Search before entering your keyword
    • Select Archives from the menu on the left-hand side, and click on Advanced from the drop-down menu underneath it.
    • Type in a keyword or creator name in the appropriate field(s). A creator refers to the organisation or individual who created the collection.
    • You can narrow down your search further by selecting date ranges, material and record types, or levels of description. In addition, you can search by an item's reference number if you have it.

    Please note, not all of our archives have been added to the catalogue yet. We are constantly adding records, so keep checking in.

     

    Finding other heritage materials

    Some of our local studies collections are not on the online catalogue yet. For their contents, please see our paper-based catalogues in the library, our library resources page or get in touch. These include the majority of our:


    • Maps
    • Plans
    • Newspaper cuttings
    • Posters
    • Ephemera
    • Illustrations
    • Audio-visual materials
    and more.


    Additional archives tips and guidance


    What are archives and how do they differ from local studies collections? 

     

    Archives are the records of an individual or an organisation which have come into being through the carrying out of the day-to-day functions of that individual or organisation, and which are no longer in current use. Archives are therefore usually unique, original records. They are selected for long-term preservation because of their historical or cultural value. For more information about Stockport's archives, see our archives page


    Our local studies collections, on the other hand, refer to our reference materials about the local area. These may or may not be original, but have been collected by us because they teach us about the history of Stockport. They comprise of local history books, directories, maps, photographs, ephemera and much more. See our library resources page for a full overview.

    Archives can only be viewed by appointment, whereas most local studies collections can be accessed on the spot in the Heritage search room at Stockport Central Library. However, physical access to our resources is currently limited while we are preparing for a move to Stockroom. Please keep an eye on the Heritage page for updates.

     

    Understanding archive levels of description

     

    Archives are catalogued as collections. This is because they tend to contain multiple records which always need to be kept together to preserve their context. 

    As a result, archive catalogues have a hierarchical structure to reflect the relationship between records. This simply means that archives are arranged and described in various levels, from very broad to narrow. These levels are:

    • Collection (or fonds): The top-down level description that provides a broad overview of the archive collection as a whole. 
    • SeriesA group of records within a collection that are kept together because they share a particular attribute. For example, they may have the same creator, or they all relate to the same activity or organisational branch. 
    • FileA group of documents within a series or a collection that have some further shared context, e.g. a group of photographs. A single file can contain numerous items. 
    • ItemThe lowest level of description. An item refers to a single document, e.g. a letter, book or photo, and cannot be divided up further. 

    There may also be sub-collections and sub-series. Not all archives are described to the same extent. Some are only catalogued to collection level, whereas others have catalogue entries for individual files or items. This will depend on the size and complexity of the collection, as well as on what we have chosen to prioritise.

    You can narrow your search results to Level of Description to, for example, only bring up collection-level descriptions. See instructions above under Finding Archives.


    How to see the full overview of an archive's contents

     

    To see an archive’s full contents, you can navigate between Collection, Series, File and Item records. You will be able to see what type of record you are looking at under the field header Level of Description.

     

    Example 1: Navigating from a File to a Collection record

    If you have landed on a File record and you want to see what Collection or Series the record is part of, you can navigate to the file’s parent record(s) from the links under Record Details.

    Under Level of Description, the record will indicate what collection the file belongs to and you can click on the hyperlink. If the file or item is also part of a series, the series will be hyperlinked in the field that says Part of


     

    Example 2: Navigating from a Collection to a File record

    Alternatively, if you have landed on a Collection record and you want to see the files it contains, you can either:

    • Scroll down the page to Titles in this Collection. This will bring you to the catalogue records of the next level down (e.g. the series), from which you can navigate to other lower-level descriptions (e.g. files and items).
    • Check the Record Details and click on the hyperlink behind the field header Includes. This will again bring you to the catalogue records of the next level down, from which you can navigate further. 

    Please remember that not all archives are described with the same amount of detail. Some archives may only have a collection-level description, or are just arranged by collection and files (skipping any series or item levels).




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