Digital Finding aids — Searching

An archival document or record is any recorded information produced or submitted by a creator which was chosen to be stored permanently and registered in the files of national archival heritage. For judging if the document in question belongs to an archive, it is important to consider the time of its origin, its contents, its background, and appearance (external features). Thus the archive does not collect all documents arisen from the activity of relevant creators but only a selection of them. Unlike a museum or a library, where collected objects have mostly been artificially selected according to their contents or other additionally formulated criteria, the utter most of archival documents are filed to archival fonds (groups) according to their creator (originator). The archival group (fond) usually reflects an organisation, function and activity of the creator, and very often also the structure of the former arrangement of documents as at the creator. The creator is always a concrete corporation, physical person or a family, from the activity of whose the documents arose. On the other hand an archival collection is the collection of documents arisen from practical or interest reasons in collection activities, not emphasizing the creator of archival documents.


The National Archives presents a description of archival fonds and collections on the web portal

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Basic information on archival fonds and collections of each archive is provided by registration in the files of national archival heritage. Its data are regularly updated on the portal and stated for each archival fond/collection (BasicInformation section).

Archival finding aids help to oriente oneself in the contents and range of the archival fonds (groups) and collections (in summary — archival files). They crown work of archivists who make documents accessible, and enable an interested person to find out if the required archival documents occur in the very archival file.

An inventory is a basic kind of finding aid containing a list of units with a description of archival file (Inventory section) accompanied by a study on the history of the creator of the archival fond/collection, then a description of archival fond/collection itself, then data on processing (so-called introductory, The Fond Information section) and in some cases also Indexes (Indexes section). The finding aid to a part of archival file is called a partial inventory. The individual description units mostly do not describe a single document but their groups. It is therefore necessary to specify groups of documents where the required information might be found, having the knowledge of activity of the creator (The Fond Information section). Single documents or their groups may be described also in the catalogue — a less frequent kind of finding aid. The so-called temporary inventory list is the provisional archival finding aid which on contrary to the above-mentioned complete aids mostly does not contain either introduction or indexes. Further, less traditional kinds of aids occur only occassionally.

The archival finding aid displayed electronically and originated in the Janus/Archivist programme, or aids transformed in it have got a traditional and hierarchically arranged structure of data. They are divided in columns and usually contain:

inv. č.: reference/inventory number which takes into consideration logical wholes of archival documents defined during processing; they do not have to comply with the description unit.

čj./sg.: original markings of archival documents from the time of their official life or designated in the process of archival administration (reference number, shelf number/signature)

obsah: contents of the description unit

datace: datum or time range of records in the description unit

evid. j.: file unit, in some archives (e.g.the National Archives), is identical with depositing unit, refers to a physical depositing of archival documents/records; a kind of file unit is a book (kn), cardboard box (ka), a letter and the like.

Due to an effort to make archival aids accessible in their entirety, some aids or just parts of them are published in a digitised form (in the form of images) and thus there is not possible a machine information retrieval.

On ordering archival documents it is necessary to obey the rules stated in the individual finding aid or ask the staff of search room of the very archive for advice.