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Help. Getting started

Exploring collections
The Archive keeps items organised in collections. All documents received by a person or an organisation are preserved and published as a whole, including oral history interviews.
Items in a collection share a common history: meaning and significance emerge in context, and this is what a collection is primarily intended to preserve. As a general rule, collections are named after the person that is their subject and normally coincide with the private papers of that individual.
→ This is the best approach if you are looking for the private papers of / the interview with a specific person.

Using entry points for topics, places and dates
The home page is a good and easy place to start initial searches of the IBCC Digital Archive. It has an intuitive menu of topics, places and dates. These entry points provide shortcuts to relevant items in the archive, created by experts who have thoroughly assessed each document capturing only substantial content and ignoring passing references.
→ This approach is less complete but more focused.

Searching for keywords
Alternatively, type keywords into the search box to explore the entire content of the Archive. This includes both descriptive information added by cataloguers (such as titles and descriptions) plus the content of transcribed documents. Expect hits to include many irrelevant items: station, for instance, can be a place where trains stop and a Royal Air Force establishment; it may also be part of totally irrelevant nouns such as stationary or stationery
→ This approach is more complete but less focused.

Top tips:

  • Hits are ordered by relevance. While searching for landing gear the system will prioritise documents containing the exact string landing gear but will also include items containing either landing or gear.
  • Unlike commercial search engines, the IBCC Digital Archive yields better results when using fewer, highly specific keywords. For instance, while searching for Flying Officer William Leslie Milne Anderson (1925 - 2018, 196733 Royal Air Force), the best approach is to start from the unique or most distinctive pieces of information: either 196733 or Milne. Both searches point to the relevant collection, which contains all relevant items. Putting the whole string in the search box, hoping to get more focused results, will return too many irrelevant hits.