Reference Number

This is our unique reference to a document or group of documents. It will consist of a string of capitalised text, usually with numbers. Subdivisions of the reference will be indicated by a "/" in the string. The reference is the key piece of information you need to give us to obtain a copy of a document or see the document at one of our Archive Centres. If the collection has been re-catalogued at some point, the previous reference will be given as an Alternative Ref.


This field provides information about the quantity of material which is being described (e.g. 2 boxes, 1 volume).

Physical description

This field provides relevant information about any important physical characteristics which might affect a record’s use.

Catalogue Level

This is the archival term for where the record can be found in the catalogue structure. As well as detailed descriptions of the individual documents, the online catalogue also includes descriptions of entire collections. Archives are usually arranged in collections called 'Fonds' by archivists and then sub-divided as necessary. The levels most currently used in our catalogues are listed below.

Fonds Level

The whole of the collection, organically created and/or accumulated and used by a particular person, family, or corporate body in the course of that creator's activities and functions. The Fonds level provides an overview and a summary of the contents of each archive collection, for example 'Caithness County Council'

SubFonds Level

A record-creating subdivision of the Fonds level, for example 'Treasurer's Department', 'Police Committee' etc.

Series, Sub-Series etc.

A series of records within the collection, for example 'Minutes of Health Committee', 'Account books', 'Correspondence files' etc.

File Level

The usual archival unit within the series, for example a file of correspondence or a volume of minutes.

Item Level

The smallest archival unit within a file or volume, for example a single letter, a title deed, page of a diary or photograph.


If a document is listed as 'wanting', it means we know it has existed at some point (thus have allocated a number for it), but we do not hold it in the Archives.

Image Showcase

Explore some of our documents from across the Highlands