How to search the University of Aberdeen's Special Collections Catalogue

Simple searching

The easiest way to search the catalogue is to enter text into the Archive Collections Quick Search box on the home page. This quick search form searches a limited number of selected fields: reference number, title and description. Note: to search for the reference of the collection the format must have inverted commas (for example "MS 3290")

Advanced Search

You can search across all of our collections, but can also limit your search to one of the collections by using the Collection drop-down list.

  • University of Aberdeen Special Collections (which includes the records of the University of Aberdeen and its constituent institutions and also the deposited records of individuals, families, estates, organisations and businesses)
  • catalogue of the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society (please note that the records are held by the Society)
  • NHS Grampian Archives
  • Scottish Catholic Archives, Historic Archives

You can also browse each of the collections in numerical order by reference number by selecting the collection as above and also selecting Fonds in the Level drop-down list (for eg. MS 1, MS 2 etc.).

Searching the Any Text field searches all text fields within the catalogue. This is fast but may return unwanted records. You can use an asterisk (*) as a wildcard to broaden a search, eg archaeolog* will find archaeology, archaeological and archaeologist. You can also fill in more than one field in the Advanced Search and search both of them together. Try searching for a keyword in Any Text, together with a reference number in the field RefNo, or a date range in the Date field.

Searching the RefNo field displays all records with 'reference numbers' matching the search string. For example, searching for MS 3290 returns all records in the Papers of Robert Laws of Livingstonia, and Amelia Laws. This is useful if you know part or all of the alphanumeric reference number assigned to a collection or its component. Please note that the referencing convention used at the University of Aberdeen follows the format of MS (for the deposited collections) and KINGS, MARISCHAL AND UNIVERSITY (for the University collections). For example: MS, followed by a space and the collection number, eg, MS 3290 and UNIVERSITY 400. The Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society is AMCS, NHS Grampian Archives is GRHB and the Scottish Catholic Archives is SCA. The reference number is a unique identifier, and it is this you require to request access.

Search by Date if you know the approximate date of an event. A wide range of date formats are supported such as 1500-1520, 1810s, 16th century, circa or c. and <1200.

Searching the Description field is more focussed than an Any Text search as it is confined to a single field in the catalogue.

Interpreting results

Results are displayed in hit lists and can be selected to show 5, 10, 20, 50 and all items to a page, sorted by reference number. If you wish the hit list to be displayed alphabetically by date or title order, click the blue Date or Title column headings. Use the Next, Prev, First and Last buttons to move through a hit list.

You can then view the more detailed document descriptions by clicking on the blue RefNo on the left of screen; each display will provide contextual information about the record at the top of the screen (e.g. name of the collection in which the record is found and other levels of description).

Navigating and browsing the catalogues of individual collections

If you then wish to see any record within the context of its own catalogue, click on the blue RefNo and this will display the catalogue overview or Hierarchy Browser. You can navigate the whole collection from this point so if you click on another line within the Hierarchy Browser the appropriate record appears.

Beginning a new search

You can select the Home or Advanced Search button at the top right of the catalogue display at any time to make a new search.


Please note that the name and place authorities appear in some records, but this work is not completed, so the indexes are not currently accessible.

Images of the collections

Please note that although the catalogue will include relevant descriptions and state whether there are images available to view online, the catalogue does not contain images of the collections. They are accessible as part of the PRIMO Digital Collections interface.