How Do I Search?

Simple search
The simple search is accessed via a free-text “Google-style” search box in the top right hand corner of the page.

By default, the simple search will search across the Title, Description, Author, Artist, Notes, and Abstract fields. Where more than one term is entered, the default will bring up records where ALL entered terms are featured (an “AND” search).

Advanced search
The advanced search enables you to search across “any text field” of the database, and also to search specifically on certain fields you select.

You can refine your search, and reduce the overall number of hits, by filtering your search using the fields available within Advanced Search.

Any Text
Use this to search all text (rather than numbers) in all fields in the catalogue. It is likely to retrieve the largest number of hits but is the most useful if you don’t know which of the other fields to use.

The catalogue database comprises three distinct repositories, and you can search across all of them, or refine your search to just one. They are:

This contains published materials about local history, ie books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, dvds, videos.

This contains unique archival material such as minutes, reports, correspondence and other papers. See navigating the archives for tips on searching this repository.

This contains mainly photographs, but also sketches, paintings and engravings. Note that images can also be found within the Archives collections where they form an integral part of an archival deposit. To search for images across both Archive and Image repositories, see ‘Category’ below.

If you have a reference, including one which may be outdated, you can enter it here.

The Library and Image collections are classified according to an in-house library classification scheme loosely based on the Dewey Decimal system.

A Subject Guide has been produced to help you identify topics of interest, and you can also navigate the library's Classification Scheme. Entering the classification number of a given subject in the Class field will bring up results in both the Library and Image repositories.

Enter all or part of the title of a collection or document. All catalogue records have a title. This search can be refined by selecting either: With all the words; With at least one of the words; or Without the words

The date field is usually used to record the date a document was created or in use, the date a photograph was taken, or when a book was published (not the period covered by a book’s content). You can enter a specific year or range of years, such as:
  • 1985
  • 1914-1918
  • Or search on a century by entering eg: 17th Cent
Entries in the database where the date is uncertain and is expressed as, for example “c 1970” will feature in any search for years up to 5 years either side of 1970.

This is a publication’s unique code, and is only likely to yield results from the Library repository.

This will search across the Author field in the Library repository, the Artist field in the Image repository, and the CreatorName field in the Archives repository.

A search on this field will only achieve search results in the Archive repository. Level is the archival term for where the record can be found in the catalogue structure. The levels used in the catalogue are:

Fonds level
A summary of each archive collection (called Fonds), for example a particular local authority such as the Limehouse District Board of Works.

Sub-Fonds level
A subsidiary part of an archive collection, such as the records of the Surveyor to the Limehouse District Board of Works.

Series level
Each series of records within the collection. For example, drainage applications submitted to the Limehouse District Board of Works.

File level
A group of related records within the series. For example, a file of drainage applications relating to a particular street.

Item level
One item within the series or file, for example a single drainage plan.

By narrowing a search to Fonds level you will get a much smaller selection of results which may be the most significant collections in relation to your enquiry.

By narrowing a search to File or Item level your results will include descriptions of folders or single items – these are producible units, and descriptions of them are sometimes brief and don’t include a description of the context from which they derive. The full file or item level reference number is needed to request items, ie a folder or other single item which can be fetched from our strongroom and produced for you in the reading room.

See Navigating the Archives for tips on how to navigate the hierarchical folder structure of archival catalogues.

This only works with material held in the Archives and Image repositories. Narrow your search by selecting a category from the dropdown picklist. A search on “Photographs” will produce results not just in the Image repository but in the Archives repository too.

This only works with material held in the Library repository. Narrow your search by selecting a type from the dropdown picklist.

In addition to free-text searching, you can also navigate the archives collection

Collection highlights

Highlights from across our collections about London’s East End