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Archives and Special Collections

Searching the Collections

How to search the collections?

You may search both the Archives and Special Collections holdings through our online database.

Special Collections books and 16mm films can be searched in the Library catalogue by selecting "Special Collections (4th Floor)" as the location field. 


Unsure where to start? We have created the following video tutorial demonstrating how to search our database, in addition to videos explaining how our records are organized and how to utilize archival databases to facilitate your research.

Searching the Ryerson Archives & Special Collections Database

Archives 101: How Archival Records are Organized

Archives 101: Archival Record Descriptions

Introduction to Archival Arrangement

How Do Archives Arrange Collections?

How Archives arrange a collection, from the Association of Canadian Archivists

How are Your Collections Arranged? (Levels of Description)

Archival records are found in collections (or "fonds" as we call them). A fonds might have a few records or a few thousand. 
When there are a lot of records, we use series and file descriptions to help us sort the information. You can browse from the top by clicking the results for "Groups of Archival Records" or you can jump straight to individual items by clicking on "File/Item Descriptions". No matter which results you choose, they are all connected. Even the people who created the records are linked to their record descriptions.

How a "fonds" is arranged: Fonds > Series > Sub-series > File > Item > Component

(Fonds) Groups of Archival Records

These records describe entire collections of papers, artifacts, videos, etc. They also describe how we acquired the collection, who was involved and what sorts of things you can find generally. This is a good place to start if you're not sure what you're looking for or if you need to learn more about how these collections came to be at Ryerson.

Series & Sub-series

Series are the next level down from Fonds (or group) records. These split the fonds into types of records, by content, format or theme, and contain files and items. Series records will contain information on what the files and items within them contain. 

Files & Items

These records are specific descriptions of individual items or very small groups of items in our collections. A file might contain the minutes of a meeting. An item might be a photograph, poster, statue or unique artifact. Click on these results if you know what you're looking for.

Record Creators

These results are separate from the descriptions of fonds and items. Here you will find brief biographies of the people or corporations who donated Fonds or individual items or records to us or who may have had something to do with creating a collection or individual item or record. These results are useful if you are researching a person who donated material to the university, but you won't find biographies for everyone in the archives! If you are looking for a friend or family member who attended Ryerson, try looking up the department or school they attended to see if they are mentioned in the papers.