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What are Helpers descriptions?

Simply put, a Helpers description suggests what you can do with an archival collection if you're a local or family historian.

This differs from the usual archival descriptions, used in AIM25 and A2A, which are based on the ISAD(G) standard which tell you what is in a collection, and leaves it up to you to decide whether you'd find it useful.

There are several sections of information in a Helpers description. The four most important are:

The description may also have an Examples of holdings section which shows the typical documents held in the collection. In order to identify the collection there is a Collection name and Holding institution section.

There are also several abstracting sections which should help you find descriptions useful to you in the database.

The Overview section summarises the rest of the description -- it should be the first thing you read when browsing through the descriptions.

The Usage section states whether the collection is useful for local or family history research (or both)

The Themes section suggests the sort of information held in the collection and what it may be particularly useful for.

The Geographic area covered section is aimed at local historians and describes the geographic range of the information held in the collection.

The Dates section gives a range of dates that the collection covers.

The Size of collection section gives a rough guide to how much useful material is in the collection: for collections that are useful to family historians we aim to describe this section in terms of the number of people mentioned in the collection.

The next guide in this tutorial is How to use the glossary.


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.