Simple Search

Welcome to the LMA online archive catalogue. This database currently contains around 2,000,000 records, covering holdings relating to the government of the City of London and Greater London area, and collections deposited by organisations and individuals based in and working for London.

The database contains datasets from all LMA's predecessor repositories including the Corporation of London Records Office, Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section and Guildhall Library Prints and Maps Section. Not every archival collection from each respository is yet available for searching, but new records are being added all the time and the database is expanding daily. Therefore, do not be surprised to see different results between your searches conducted on different days or weeks.

If you are new to archives please see How do archive catalogues work?for an introduction to how an archival cataloguing system works.

The first important assistance you may require is determining which search option is best for you. There are three search interfaces available in this online database:

Simple Search is the quickest way to search the site, and enables you to search for a word or phrase across the whole of the database. If you already know the reference code of the item(s) you are looking for it will also allow you to search specifically for those items.

Advanced Search allows you to build up more sophisticated searches using a range of criteria. This option also allows you to search across previous reference codes, for example when searching for items previously part of the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section by their 'MS' number.

Browse the Collection is a great way to start your research if you're not looking for a specific document or group of archives. You can browse by category or title. Browsing by category will provide an alphabetically sorted list of all collections with the same subject classification eg hospitals, parishes etc. Browsing by title will provide an alphabetically sorted list of all collections with titles which start with the same letter

How do archive catalogues work?

LMA organises and describes its records according to standard archival principles. Its catalogues are based on the concept of a multi-level hierarchical description. Unlike a library catalogue where each book usually stands alone and is described with reference only to itself, archival documents retain very close ties with the other documents created by the same organisation and they are described with reference to the organisational structure of the body which created them or the way in which the original collection grew. The hierarchical levels exist to explain how each document relates to the other documents created by the same body or individual.

Information about the hierarchical level of a record can always be found in the Level of Description field.

The highest level of the hierarchy is the collection or "fonds" level. This describes the entire set of records created by an organisation or individual and transferred to the archive.

The next three levels, called "Subfonds or Group", "Series" and "Subseries" explain how the organisation was set up and how it created its records. The more complicated the arrangement of the organisation, the more of these levels the archival catalogue will have. For example a local government body may have "Subfonds" relating to each of its Departments -one Subfonds for the Architect's Department, another for the Education Officer's department and so on. Businesses may have Subfonds for their Finance Department, their Marketing Department etc. Each Subfonds will be broken down into "Series", usually describing types of records, such as a Series of Minute Books or of Annual Reports. If the archive is very complicated the Series may be further broken down into "Subseries", for example a Series of Minute Books may contain Subseries for different Sub-Committees.

The final two levels describe the archival documents themselves. "File" is the most common of these and is the level which you can order to view in LMA's Archive Study Area. It means a document such as a bound volume, a folder of loose papers, a DVD, a bundle of deeds or a roll of maps. The last two of those examples might be catalogued all the way down to the final level - "item" - where each deed in the bundle or each map in the roll is described individually.

The figure below provides an example of how archival hierarchy works at London Metropolitan Archives. In the example, red = collection or fonds level, blue = subfonds or group level, green = series level and aqua = file level

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