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Browsing the Helpers descriptions

The Helpers site allows you to browse or search the Helpers descriptions.

'Searching' is the sort of thing you do on Google -- you give the computer a few words that you are interested in, the computer then goes and finds the records that it thinks you’d be most interested in based on the words you gave it. 'Browsing' is where you look through all the records that the computer holds and make your own decisions about what is most interesting to you.

We strongly recommend that you browse your way through the Helpers records. The reasons why are given in the tutorial Should I search or browse?

How to browse

Select Browse descriptions from the Helpers descriptions menu. This will show you the first page of Helpers descriptions to browse through.

An image of the page list bar which allows users to visually naviagte search or browse results.
Figure 1: The list of pages

The first line under the words 'Browse results' is the list of pages. You should start on page 1, and you can go back or forward a page using the blue arrows at the either end of the last, or you can jump straight to a page by clicking on its page number. The current page number is highlighted by pink arrows. (See figure 1.)

The browse results themselves are displayed as a table with columns giving the name of the collection being described, the Holding institution, and a brief description of the collection. The idea is you should browse through the brief descriptions and when you find a collection that sounds like it may be useful to you in your research, you click on the collection name which takes you to a page showing the complete description for that collection. Once you’ve read through the complete description, clicking on your browser’s Back button will bring you back to the browse results page.

Changing the browse criteria

The browse criteria is one of the abstracting sections (see What is a Helpers description guide) which you can choose to display as part of the browse results. For example if you’re interested in the local history of Camden you can select 'Geographic area covered' as your browse criteria, and this means that you’ll be able to browse through both the brief descriptions and the geographic area covered sections and this should help you find the collection descriptions that are both useful for local history and contain information about Camden.

Selecting the browse criteria is simply a case of choosing the abstracting section you're interested in from the browsing criteria drop down menu, and then clicking on the Browse button.

Changing the result order

You can also change the order in which the browse results are displayed. You can order them alphabetically by Holding institution or Collection name, or by the size of the collection (largest first), or by the dates of the collection (earliest first). Note that the database only has a very rough estimate as to the size of a collection, so it lists all the collections, with tens of thousands of items, followed by those with thousands, then hundreds, etc. Therefore the ordering will be very approximate, but should be good enough that you look through the very big collections first (which are more likely to be useful to you). Also note that the ordering by date works out the middle date for the collection (each collection description has an earliest and latest date). So a collection dated 1900 -- 1910 (mid date 1905) will be listed before a collection dated 1890 -- 1950 (mid date 1930). Again the ordering is therefore approximate, but should be good enough to be useful.

The next guide is How to search the Helpers database.


The Helpers system is developed as part of the Accessing our Archival and Manuscript Heritage project, at Senate House Library, University of London, funded by the Laser Foundation and the EARL Consortium. Please see the project website for further details.