Search Help

Basic Database Search

Type the subject you are looking for in the box called "Search for" and click on the search button or on the "enter" key on your keyboard.

Advanced Database Search

Three types of searches are available on the Advanced Search Page:

Item search
An item is a single, discrete unit within a fonds or accession (see below). Generally, an item will consist of an individual document (e.g. a letter, report, photographic image or sound recording), or a group of documents (e.g. a file) that is treated as an item for administrative purposes and retrieval. “Item level” is a term often used to differentiate between searches for material (e.g. to find a specific photograph, search at the item level as opposed to the fonds level.)
Accession search
An accession refers to a group of items physically and legally transferred to an archives as a unit at a single time. An accession may be part of a larger collection (see fonds, below).
Fonds search
A fonds refers to the entire body of records of an organization, family, or individual, regardless of form or medium, that have been created and accumulated as the result of an organic process reflecting the day-to-day activities and functions of the creator. A fonds is often made up of a number of individual accessions (see accession, above).

Several search boxes are available in each of these searches. You can type search terms in more than one box to make your search more specific, as long as all the boxes you use belong to the same type of search. The search will only find results that match all the terms you enter.

Enter words or parts of words which you think would be in the description of the records you’re looking for. This is the best place to enter terms describing the subject. Available in all three searches.
If you know the title of an item, accession, or fonds, enter all or part of it in this box. Available in all three searches. This can be used in an accession or fonds search to find records created by a particular person or organization, because the creator’s name is usually part of the title of the fonds or accession. In an item search the title comes from the item itself or from its container (e.g. a file folder), and usually does not include the creator’s name. Note that not all items have titles; in particular, most photographs in our collection have no titles.
If you are looking for a specific type of record (for example, if you only want to see photographs), you can choose that type from the dropdown menu. Available in item and accession searches.
Accession Number
If you are looking for a specific accession and you know its accession number, you can enter it here. Accession numbers look like this: N-1979-052.
Catalogue Number
If you are looking for a specific item and you know its catalogue number, you can enter it here. Catalogue numbers look like this: N-1979-052: 0123.

Search Results

Photographs that are available for viewing on the website are displayed as a set of "thumbnail" images along with partial information about the images. You can click on images that interest you to see larger versions of them along with the descriptive information we have about them.

Photographs which have not yet been digitized, as well as other types of items (text, audio, video, etc.), are displayed as icons which indicate the type of record, along with information about the items. You can click on the icons to see more detailed information, but the actual items are not accessible online.

In the top left-hand corner of each item level result, there is a small paperclip which can be used to pin the item to a clipboard.

Accession search results are displayed as a list showing the catalogue number and title of each accession. Fonds search results are displayed as a list showing the title and the beginning of the description of each fonds. In both cases, you can click on the title to see more information.

Search Hints

You should make your searches as specific as possible. If you search on a very broad term, such as “dog,” you will have hundreds of thumbnails as a result.

The best way to make your searches specific in this particular database is to use "Boolean" searches. A Boolean search allows you to define your search more specifically than a normal search. By using words such as AND, OR or AND NOT in your search term, you can narrow your search to find the most relevant results.

AND (and)
Use AND between any two search terms to find records containing both terms. For example Inuvik AND aerial. This makes your search narrower.
OR (or)
Use OR between any two search terms to find records containing either of the two terms. For example Holman OR Ulukhaktok. This makes your search broader.
NOT (not)
Use NOT between any two search terms to find records that do not include the term immediately following the NOT. Best when used in combination with one or more terms that you do want to find. For example, Yellowknife AND mine NOT Giant.

Another useful trick for searching is to use parts of words rather than full ones. For example, when searching for a subject like trapping, you might want to use the word “trap” rather than “trapping.” That way you will bring up all pictures relating to trapping, including traps, trappers, traplines, etc. This approach can also be useful for searching for personal or place names where there are likely to be spelling variations - a common occurrence in the North.

This database does not use certain operators which are available in some other databases:

  • Phrase searches – Do not use quotation marks if you want to search for a phrase. The database treats words that are next to each other as a phrase, and if quotation marks are used the search will only bring up results where there are quotation marks in the description.
  • Wild cards - When you are using part of a word to search, do not include an asterisk (*) or any other special character that is not part of the spelling of the word.

Alternative Names

The spellings of people’s and place names in the Northwest Territories have changed a great deal over the years.

People’s Names:

One example of the changes in people’s names is that of Paul Voudrach. Voudrach is the current spelling of his name, but it may also appear as Voudrack. One way of dealing with these inconsistencies when using this database is to search for parts of names. For example, a search for “Voudra” would bring up items identified by both variations of the spelling. Similarly, “otchil” will find “Cotchilly” and “Kotchilea,” etc. Another way is to use “or” in your search: Voudrack OR Voudrach.

Place Names:

In addition to spelling variations, the names of many communities have officially been changed to names in Aboriginal languages in the recent past - and this process is ongoing. For example, the community that used to appear on maps as Fort Norman is now Tulita. Both new and old names should be used when searching for communities (Norman OR Tulita). For the Official and Traditional Community Names with Pronunciation Guide, click here.

What to Do if You Don’t Find What You are Looking For

We have over 350,000 photographs in the NWT Archives, so only small fractions are available online. There are item-level descriptions for many images that have not yet been digitized; you can still order the photo from the description or come in and view the original (with advance notice).

There are also many records in the archives which have not been described at the item level, so you may need to do a broader search at the accession or fonds level. Feel free to contact us if your database search doesn’t produce what you need.

Accuracy of Information about the Photographs

We do our best to make sure that the information associated with the photographs is accurate; however, we do depend on other people for that information. If you believe that you have spotted an inaccuracy with a description, or have something to add, please let us know. This can be done very easily by clicking on the "Send comments or additional information on this image" link at the bottom of the pages on which the large versions of images are displayed. We especially welcome new or additional identifications for the people in our photos.

The photograph captions are from two sources: direct copies of captions (usually written by the people who originally took or owned the pictures) and information provided by archivists. The information provided by archivists is in square brackets [like this].

For reasons of historic authenticity, captions provided by the photographers are unedited. They may contain inaccuracies or terms that would now be considered inappropriate. As well, the spelling of both people’s and place names has changed with time, so some inaccuracies and inconsistencies are unavoidable.

Using the Clipboard

When viewing items, a paperclip button will appear in the top right corner of the preview image. This button allows you to save the item to a clipboard for later viewing and retrieval. Once your collection is assembled, the list of items in the clipboard can be printed, emailed, or downloaded.

The clipboard items are saved as cookies on your computer, and last a week from when they are set. This allows you ample time to extract relevant accession and item numbers from the database for your research needs.

Clearing the Clipboard

It is possible that you may encounter occasional problems accessing your clipboard due to bad cookie data. Use this button to reset the Clipboard.

Saving and Retrieving Searches

You may also save a search and retrieve it again at a later time. To save a search you must click on the "Save Search" button found at the top of results pages. This will provide you with a Search ID Number. Please keep this number. In order to ensure privacy, we do not track these numbers.

To retrieve a search, click on the Retrieve Search button found at the bottom of the main search pages. At this page you will need to enter your Search ID Number. This will allow you to retrieve a previously saved search and will return you to the results page where you saved the search. This feature is useful if you’ve done a complicated search with many results and want to pick up where you left off.

Please note that searches can be retrieved for up to two weeks after the initial search is done.


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