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Archives Service: What are Descriptive Lists

What is a Descriptive List?

A Descriptive List is a fundamental finding aid for an archival collection. It should contain information which details the provenance of a collection and its system of arrangement. The list facilitates researchers in locating documents of specific interest to their research topic. It also assists researchers in assessing the collection as a primary source and judge the evidential value of the archives.

How to use a Descriptive List

Each fully listed and open to the public large archival collection in UCC Library Archives Service has its descriptive list available online as a pdf from the Collection's specific webpage via the Collections tab along the top menu.

The online pdf copy of a descriptive list is keyword searchable. To bring up a Find box onscreen, click Ctrl+F, then enter a keyword e.g. a person's surname/a place name. Please be aware that spellings of names and places change over centuries so you may have to conduct multiple searches. 


An example of descriptive entry

Contained within the list will be a brief description of each item in a collection which will include details such as the date and size of the item. Each entry will have a call number. When you wish to look at a particular item please provide the archivist with the relevant call number(s).

Below is a typical example of a list entry from IE BL/EP/R (Ryan of Inch Collection)

20.        2 April 1692

See Also /8

Probate with copy of the will of Daniel Ryan, Inchiofogarty. Appoints as executors his wife Frances (née Raggert), and his son John. Other children named are Nicolas, Andrew, Patrick, Joseph and Frances.

2 skins

In this entry, the call number is IE/EP/R/20, the date of the item is 2 April 1692 and it comprises of two skins (parchment sheets). With an entry See Also /8, information relating to this item can also be found in item BL/EP/R/8.

Visiting in Person

Hard copy Descriptive Lists for archival collections within the Boole Library are available for consultation from the desk in Special Collections and Archives during the opening hours of Special Collections in Q-1. These hard copy Descriptive Lists cannot be borrowed from the Library.

Detailed information relating to the collection will be contained in the Introduction of the descriptive list.