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Tasmania's Heritage
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Tasmanian Archives Online (TAO) - users guide

It is important to keep in mind that archival records were created as part of the process of organisations and individuals going about their usual business and, unlike books and other  published works typically found in libraries, were not created specifically for future research and use by others. The major implication of this for researchers is that this TAO database is not like a library catalogue, but rather contains contextual elements arising from the record’s creation that  enables the identification of items that may contain the information you are seeking.

Contents

Different Levels of Information Provided

Tasmanian Archives Online uses archival terms which are important to understand in order to make the best use of the on-line searching facility. These terms are defined below and each provides a different level of information in the system.

Function

A function is a major responsibility of an agency and is made up of activities which are documented by series of records eg Public Sector Financial Management is a function of the Department of Treasury and Finance and Budget Management is one of its activities. Similarly, Health Care is a function of the Department of Health and Human Services and Child Health Services is one of its activities. One function may be assigned to multiple agencies and one agency may have multiple functions.

Agency

An agency is a record creator, that is, a government department or administrative unit (eg. TA63 - Department of Education), private organisation (eg. NG1916 - Child Health Association) or individual (eg. NG82 – George Billing). Each Agency is allocated a unique identifying number prefixed with either TA (government agency) or NG (non-government agency). Some agencies are linked to other agencies in a controlling, controlled, previous or subsequent relationship eg. the Department of Education (TA63) is the controlling agency for all Government Schools which are agencies in their own right; the Scenery Preservation Board (TA27) was the agency previous to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (TA26) which assumed the former’s functions when it ceased to exist. An agency may create one or many series of records.

Series

A series is a group of items linked together by commonality of function or system, created by one or more agencies over time. Some series have relationships with other series in the same way that agencies are linked to others - controlling, controlled, previous or subsequent. A Series Number comprises alpha and numeric components eg. AE300 (Minutes of meetings of the Sea Fisheries Board), NS1017 (Letter books of Thomas Scott) and CB7/34 List of Vessels Carrying Bounty Immigrants). A series may comprise one or many items.

Item

An item is the smallest entity in the database. It may be a single file, a photograph, volume, film, map or box of correspondence eg PH30/1/9683 – Photograph of I.X.L. Football Team, 1917. Each item belongs to a series.

Important Notes About Items in Tasmanian Archives Online

Many item descriptions do not exist in electronic form. It will therefore be common to encounter the words “No Description Available”. In addition, item descriptions from series where work is in progress or for which there are sensitivity/privacy issues, will not display. In both instances it will be necessary to contact the Archives Office for further information.

It is also important to remember that the content of many items is not described in this database. For example, for some major series of correspondence from central government agencies such as the Colonial Secretary’s Office, Treasury Department and Lands and Surveys Department, individual files will never be described in the database by name or subject. The original indexes used by the agency which created the records should still be consulted where they exist.

Refer to our Contact Information page to make any enquiries about Tasmanian Archives Online.

What is Excluded from Tasmanian Archives Online

The database does not contain information about newspapers and printed material such as Tasmanian Parliamentary Papers, Almanacs, Directories and Tasmanian Electoral Rolls. Nor is there information on Australian Joint Copying Project Microfilms or Miscellaneous Microfilms containing Tasmanian records held in other institutions. These all sit outside the Office’s Archival Management System.

Access To Records

Access Restrictions may be placed on records by their creating agency through the provisions of the Archives Act 1983. The access categories are generally coded as Open, E, D, C and B followed by a specified period of years, usually 25. Access codes appear alongside series and item details in the database.

‘Open’ access means there is no restriction to the records

‘E’ and ‘C’ means access is only available to a specified user or groups of users

‘D’ means access is only available to the responsible agency

‘B’ means access to the records for bone-fide research purposes is at the discretion of the State Archivist.

‘S/F’ or ‘See File’ indicates that the arrangements may be complicated and advice should be sought from the Archives Office.

In cases of sensitive personal information, the restriction may extend to 75 years after creation of the record, the statutory maximum period of time allowed. Information on these items will not display in Tasmanian Archives Online. To view a closed record, permission must be sought from the agency responsible for administering the access. The Archives Office can advise on the necessary procedure.

All records are on open access after 75 years from date of creation.

Find out more about privacy and personal information held by the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.

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Searching Tasmanian Archives Online

Tasmanian Archives Online provides three types of searches:

  • Basic Search
  • Specialised Searches (Function, Agency, Series and Item Searches)
  • Browse Options (Agency only)

Within these searches All Words, Exact Word and Boolean searchoptions are available.

All Words - will find all the word selected and all words containing the selected word eg. a search for mine will return all entities containing the words mine, mines, determined, examined etc.

Exact Word - will find entities which contain the exact word only. eg. a search for mine will return only entities containing the word mine.

Boolean – this search with the operators “or”, “and” and “and not” will structure the results as follows:

  • mine “or” mining will return every entity with any of these words in the title or description (the use of “or” broadens the search yielding a greater number of returns)
  • mine “and” tin will return every entity that has both the words mine and tin together (the use of “and” narrows the search)
  • mine “and not” tin will return every entity with the word mine that doesn’t have the word tin in the description (the use of “and not” also narrows the search by excluding words).

Basic Search

A Basic Search allows keyword searching across all available information in the database including titles and descriptions for any Function, Agency, Series and Item. This search is useful for new researchers.

To search enter a word or words in the search field and select one of the search options.

Basic Search Results are displayed in hierarchical order of Function, Agency, Series then Item. Within each of these entities, the results are displayed in chronological order.

Each Search Result is then linked by its Identifier (Function, Agency, Series or Item number) to a Details Page which, in turn, provides further linkage and context through the function, agency, series and item hierarchy.

It is possible to return to the Search Results from any Details page.

Below is an example of results from an exact word search using the words burial ground:

Example

Example1

Specialised Searches

Specialised Searches can be made using various search criteria within the particular entities. These include a Function Search, an Agency Search, a Series Search or an Item Search. These searches can be used by researchers who have some experience with archival systems and terms.

Function Search

Note: The function module in Tasmanian Archives Online is a work in progress. functions and activities are being added into the system and are being assigned to agencies as time permits.

A Function Search will retrieve all functions which meet the selection criteria (a keyword, date etc). Each Search Result is then linked by its Function Number to a Function Details page which, in turn, provides further linkage and context through the function, agency, series and item hierarchy. A search with no criteria will produce a list of all functions in numerical order and is useful for browsing purposes.

The value of a function search is its ability to locate agencies which have functions relevant to the particular area of research. The series of records these agencies create document the functions and their activities.

Agency Search

An Agency Search will retrieve all agencies which meet the selection criteria.

To search, enter some criteria in one or more of the search boxes:

Agency Number – A precise agency number where known and entered, will retrieve only the agency selected (agency numbers are alpha-numeric eg.TA45 or NG1012).

Agency Title or/and Description - Entering a word or words in these search boxes will retrieve all agencies where that word or words appear.

Start Date and End Date Ranges – Entering a date/year in any of these fields can narrow a search

Below is an example of results from an exact word search using the word forest in the Agency Title field:

Example

Example2

Results are first displayed in chronological order but can be re-sorted (by title or date) using the drop-down menu provided.

Each Agency Search Result is then linked by its Agency Number to an Agency Details page which, in turn, provides further linkage and context through the function, agency, series and item hierarchy. It is possible to return to the Search Results from any Details page.

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Agency Details

Below is an example of an Agency Details page with explanatory text for each of the fields displayed. The Agency is TA66 – Forestry Commission.

Example

Example3

Agency No: Alpha-numeric code comprising two letters (TA and NG) and up to five numbers assigned by the AOT as a unique identifier. TA indicates a government agency and NG indicates a non-government organisation or individual. There are three exceptions where an agency commences with XX and is followed by a number. These are de-facto agencies created by AOT for administrative purposes to fit data which would have otherwise remained outside the system.

Title: Official title of the Agency

Start Date: The date on which an agency commenced. There can be variations. This data can be the official date, a date derived from the first surviving record created by the agency or an approximation based on a month, year or decade. A start date of 1/1/1920 may indicate an exact start date on the first of January, a start date of sometime within the month of January, a start date sometime within the year of January or, in rare circumstances, a start date somewhere in the decade of the 1920s.

A blank start date indicates a start date is unknown.

End Date: The date on which an agency ceased to exist. A blank end date may indicate that the end date is unknown or, more likely, that the agency is a current agency.

Description: Describes the history, function and structure of the agency.

Information Sources: Sources of information used for the agency registration.

Legislation Administered: History of legislation administered by the agency

Legislation Creating: Lists the legislation, regulation, order or administrative action which established the agency.

Legislation Abolishing Agency: Lists the legislation, regulation, order or administrative action which abolished the agency.

Function Performed: Lists the functions undertaken by the agency.

Controlling Agencies: Agency which exercises some responsibility for the subordinate agency. There may be none, one or many.

Controlled Agencies: Subordinate agency which reports to another agency. There may be none, one or many.

Previous Agencies: Agency which pre-dates another agency and performs the same or similar functions. There may be none, one or many.

Subsequent Agencies: Agency which follows another and performs the same or similar functions. There may be none, one or many

Related Agencies: Agency which performs associated functions and can exist concurrently with its related agency. There may be none, one or many.

Series Created by Agency: A list of series created by the agency, displayed in chronological order. If no series are displayed it means that the Archives Office does not hold any records from the agency or that any series the agency has created are a work in progress and the data is not currently available.

Series Search

A Series Search will retrieve all series which meet the selection criteria.

To search, enter some criteria in one or more of the search boxes:

Series Number - A precise Series Number, where known and entered, will retrieve only the series selected. Series Numbers, although alpha-numeric, can be configured in different ways as a result of changing practices over time. It is best to only enter this field when confident that the number is accurate. (eg. MCC16/129, CB7/8, NS282/1, AB800 etc). Note: there is no space between the letters and numbers.

Series Title or/and Description - Enter a word or words in the search field that may appear in the Series Title or descriptions and select one of the search options.

Start Date and End Date Ranges – Entering a date/year in any of these fields can narrow a search.

Below is an example of results from an exact word search using the word women in the Series Description field:

Example

Example4 

Results are first displayed in chronological order but can be re-sorted (by title or date) using the drop-down menu provided.

Each Series Search Result is then linked by its Series Number to a Series Details page which, in turn, provides further linkage and context through the function, agency, series and item hierarchy. It is possible to return to the Search Results from any Details page.

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Series Details

Below is an example of a Series Details page with explanatory text for each of the fields displayed. The Series is AB413.

Example

Example5 

Series No: Unique alpha-numeric code assigned by AOT as an identifier. Some series numbers may contain a “/” as part of the number eg. CB7/10

Title: Descriptive title assigned by Archives Office of Tasmania

Start Date: Date of the earliest item in the series. It may not always be possible to establish a date, so this field may in some circumstances be an approximation derived from other contextual information.

End Date: Date of the latest item in the series.

Contents Start Date: In most cases the contents start date and the series start date are the same. This field is used in certain circumstances when the date of the earliest information in the series is not the same as the start date. Eg. Series AE412 (Asthma Survey Case files) were created in 1981 but amongst their content is earlier information dating from 1966. This latter date is displayed in the contents start date field.

Contents End Date: Date of the latest information in the series. See above.

Date Range of Holdings: Only displays when there are gaps within the series date range and indicates the actual dates of the holdings. Eg. Series AC40 (Register of applications for water rights under miners' rights from the Derby Office) has a date range of 1892 to 1963 but there are gaps within these dates. The actual holdings are: 1892 to 1906 and 1916 to 1963.

Access: Indicates level of public access to the series.

Creating Agencies: Agency which created and used the records. May be one or many over a period of time.

Description: Describes the function and content of the series.

How to Use Series: Additional information on usage such as conditions attached, variations on access etc.

System of Arrangement: How the series was organised and used by its creating agencies eg. alphabetical, chronological etc

Information Sources: Any sources of information used by AOT for the series registration.

Controlling Series: Series which controls the use of another series making the information it contains accessible eg. index or register. May be none, one or many.

Controlled Series: Series whose use is governed by another series. May be none, one or many.

Related Series: Series which has a similar function but not a direct relationship. May be none, one or many.

Previous Series: Series which pre-dates another and has the same function and is of similar format and arrangement.

Subsequent Series: Series which follows another and continues the same function and is of similar format and arrangement.

Items: Alpha-numerical item number and description displayed of the smallest parts which make up the series. Note: Not all item descriptions exist and many that do have not yet been loaded into Tasmanian Archives Online. Items from series where work is in progress or where access is restricted for 75D years will not display.

Item Search

An Item Search will retrieve all items which meet the selection criteria. There are over 400,000 items currently in the database and a search may retrieve a long list of items. A restrictive search will yield the best results. In some circumstances it may be practical to abandon an item search in favour of a series search where it is possible to identify likely series that will contain information of interest.

To search, enter some criteria in one or more of the search boxes:

Item Number - A precise item number, where known and entered, will retrieve only the item selected. It is best to only enter this field when confident that the number is accurate. (eg. MCC16/129/1/39, CB7/8/1/1, NS282/1/1, AB567/3/100 etc). Note: there is no space between the letters and numbers.

Description - Enter a word or words in the search field and select one of the search options – All Words, Exact Word or Boolean Query. It is important to note that many items in Tasmanian Archives Online do not have descriptions entered

Start Date and End Date Ranges - Entering a date/year in any of these fields can narrow a search

Note: Some item results may display in lower case and others in upper case. No significance should be attached to this.

Below is an example of results from an exact word search using the word “grave” in the Item Description field:

Example

Example6

Results are first displayed in numerical order but can be re-sorted (by title or date) using the drop-down menu provided.

Each Item Search Result is then linked by its Item number to a Details page which, in turn, provides further linkage and context through the function, agency, series and item hierarchy. It is possible to return to the Search Results from any Details page.

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Item Details

Below is an example of an Item Details page with explanatory text for each of the fields displayed. The Item is NS1553/1/1351.

Example

Example7 

Item No: Unique identifier comprising three parts: series number, consignment number and computer generated item number. May look like AB200/1/34 or MCC16/129/1/39. The first part up to the first “/” comprises the series number. The second number indicates the series consignment to which the item belongs, as one series may be transferred to the Archives Office in many batches (consignments) over a lengthy period of time. The last number is a consecutive computer-generated number indicating where the item appears in the series.

Description: Description of discrete item. Can also be a file title, file number, name or part of an alphabetic range within the group of items eg. And – Batch, Batt - Bur etc or part of a numeric range eg. 1-99, 100-199 etc

Start Date: Date of earliest part of the item. In some cases where data entry is incomplete, this may reflect the date range of the entire series.

End Date: Date of latest part of the item

Access: Indicates the level of public access. May differ from the access at series level where, for example, the period of years for which the series is closed has expired for this particular item.

Location: HOB- indicates the item is located in the Hobart Office at 77 Murray Street and is available for immediate retrieval for viewing in the public search room. BER – indicates that the item is stored at the Berriedale Repository to which there is no public access. The item needs to be requested a minimum of 24 hours in advance to be made available for viewing in the public search room at 77 Murray Street. Refer to the Contact Information page to make these arrangements.

Further Description: Additional item descriptive information and also used where the description exceeds the description field above.

Series: Series to which the item belongs. May be one or many.

Search by Browsing

The Browse option allows an alphabetical search of Agencies by clicking on the letter of the alphabet required in the Browse Search Screen.

Results are first displayed in alphabetical order but can be re-sorted using the drop-down menu provided.

Below is an example of the results from a Browse Agency search on the letter “F”.

Example

Example8

Use of Dates in Searching

Dates can be used to refine searching across all of the Specialised Searches. The following configurations will be accepted: 1/1/1900, 1 Jan 1900, Jan 1900, January 1900 and 1/1900.

Date Ranges

There are two search fields for both the Start Dates and End Dates. This is to enable a search within a range of dates at start date and within a range of dates at end date. They can be used independently or together with varying results.

An entry in the first Start Date field will retrieve all entities that commenced on or after the selected date. For example, an Agency Search with a start date 1/1/1999 will display all agencies created on or after 1 January 1999.

The first Start Date field used in combination with the second Start Date field restricts the results as follows. An Agency Search with a start date of 1/1/1995 in the first Start Date search field and 31/12/1996 in the second Start Date search field will retrieve all the agencies which started during the years 1995 to 1996.

Of course the same principles apply in the use of the End Date fields.

Start Date and End Date used in combination

The simplest way to use the Start Date and End Date fields in combination is to enter a start date in the first Start Date field and an end date in the second End Date field. For example, an Agency Search with the first Start Date field entered as 1820 and the second End Date field entered as 1850 will display all agencies that existed between the years of 1820 and 1850.

A more refined search using Start Date and End Date in combination can be made using all four search fields. For example, an Agency Search which has the first Start Date entered as 1820 and the second Start Date field entered as 1860 and has the first End Date field entered as 1880 and the second end Date field entered as 1900 will produce a list of agencies which began between 1820 and 1860 and which also closed between 1880 and 1900.

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