Navigating the Archives

The archives repository is arranged hierarchically, so in addition to free-text searching, you have the opportunity to browse through the many individual archive catalogues to see what is available within them.

The Reference Number (Ref No) is key to understanding and browsing the archive collections in their context. The first letter of the Ref No field indicates the Management Group to which it belongs.

For example, on the Advanced search page, type “L” into the Ref No field. This will bring a list of "search results" of just one record: the management group record for Local Authority records. Open this by clicking on the RefNo "L" (not the title) and then, to bring up an expandable list of all records within the 'Local Authority' management group, click again on RefNo "L" in this record.

To see what is available within each of these 'Local Authority' catalogues – representing the many different local authorities that have been responsible for the borough’s administration over time - you must continue to click on the Ref No in the search results page.

This brings up a summary of the contents of the particular catalogue, ie the records we hold which were created by that local authority. You can navigate further into the catalogue, or back up again, by clicking on the Ref No field that you would like to explore.

When a + sign appears next to a catalogue entry, click on the + to expand and view its contents. (Do not click on the title itself.)

When you have navigated through the hierarchy of descriptions, until there is no other + option for you to expand, click on the title of the record you wish to see, and on the resulting page you will find the Ref No which relates to this particular item, volume or folder. You should quote this Ref No in any correspondence with us, or if you are planning to request to see it on a future research visit here.

Bear in mind that these catalogues can contain many thousands of records each, and take a while to load up in your browser.

You can make a start by entering one of these Management Group codes into the RefNo field in Advanced search, to browse its catalogue:
  • B/ Business Records
  • C/ Local Records of Central Government
  • I/ Records of Institutions
  • L/ Local Authority Records
  • O/ Oral History Records
  • P/ Personal Papers
  • S/ Records of Societies and Associations
  • W/ Records of Places of Worship

Collection highlights

Highlights from across our collections about London’s East End