How do I search the catalogue?

Quick search

You can perform a simple search using the box on the top right. However this option only searches across the title and description fields of the catalogue database so you may wish to use either the 'Advanced Search' for more options, or Boolean search terms.

Boolean search

+ represents ‘And’, ie the search result for Charles + Lyell must include both words

- represents ‘Not’, ie the search result Charles - Lyell will only include ‘Charles’ but exclude instances of ‘Lyell’

| represents ‘Or’, ie the search result for Charles | Lyell will include all instances of ‘Charles’ some of which will include ‘Lyell’.

If no symbols are used, ‘And’ is assumed.

To search for an exact phrase, use double quotes, ie “Charles Lyell” will return results in which these exact words appear, in that order.

The use of * can find variations in spelling, ie Lyell* will find ‘Lyell’ but also the species name ‘Lyelli’. It is particularly useful for plurals.

Advanced search

Advanced Search allows searching across multiple fields of the catalogue database. It can be used with Boolean terms or without.

Any text

You may find it useful to start with a broad search using the 'Any text' option, which searches across all fields of the catalogue database. If there are too many hits, you can then be more specific by clicking on the 'Refine Search' button which will take you back to the full Advanced search page to add more detail.

Ref No

The unique archive reference number, which identifies a series, file or item, ie GSL/CFN/STU.


The short title given to a series, file or item, ie Letter from Charles Lyell, or Photographs of aftermath of the eruption of Mount Pelée with section.


A flexible range of terms is permitted using the Date field, allowing you to narrow or broaden your search quite precisely. For example:

1815 = Any date in the year 1815

1815-1820 = Any date within any of the years 1815 to 1820 inclusive

c.1815 = The year 1815 and ten years either side (ie 1805-1825)

19th century = The years 1800-1899

Early 19th century = First 40 years of the 19th century (1800-1839)

Mid 19th century = Middle 40 years of the 19th century (1830-1869)

Late 19th century = Last 40 years of the 19th century (1860-1899)

Early 1800s = Any date between 1800 and 1804 inclusive

1800s = Any date between 1800 and 1809 inclusive


A field which fully describes the content of the series, file or item. Can be used in conjunction with other fields to build a detailed search.


The archive collections have been categorised into different formats to allow easier searching, particularly in relation to visual material such as maps or portraits. The formats used are:

Audio-visual – sound or video recordings.

Document – text based items.

Electronic record – digital records, such as pdfs or image files such as tiffs.

Map/section – geological maps and sections.

Objects – three dimensional objects such as models or artefacts.

Photograph/drawing/painting/print – image based items depicting inanimate things such geological features, fossils, landscapes, etc.

Portraits – image based items where the human figure is the subject. Includes portrait busts.

Therefore if you search 'Charles Lyell' using the Any text, Title or Description fields whilst selecting 'Portrait' in the format field, the result will bring up all instances of likenesses of Charles Lyell. The same search term this time with the format ‘Map/section’ selected will bring up all instances of maps and sections associated with Charles Lyell, and so on.

Creator name

The creator of the series, file or item. Can be used in conjunction with other fields to build a detailed search.


Broad subject terms using the catalogue’s inbuilt thesaurus, ie ‘Volcanic eruptions’.


More precise subject terms which have been added as they are either too geological, ie ‘Jurassic’ or are unique to our collections ‘Admission of Women’.

*Note: only a limited proportion of the collection has been subject indexed.

Navigating search results

You can sort the search results by clicking on the appropriate column heading. To scroll through the list of results use the Next/Previous links.

To view the full catalogue record of the item, click on the ‘Ref No’ link in the left column. As well as the full description, at the top of the page you can also see a set of links to the higher levels of the series or collection to which the item belongs. You can click on these to find out more. If you wish to see in full where the item sits in the collection hierarchy, click again on the individual ‘Ref No’.

To return to your list of results click on ‘Search Results’ at the top of the record.

Under the main catalogue description may be a series of linked ‘Persons’ or ‘Places’. You can investigate these by clicking on each respective Code reference in the left column. The following page gives a further link to explore other items in the catalogue associated with this person or place.

Powered by CalmView© 2008-2024