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Special Collections

About the Catalogue

This catalogue consists of records of material held in the Zibby Garnett Library at the University of Lincoln, plus some of the items owned by the Dean & Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral, which can be accessed by staff, students and members of the public.

As well as providing an overview and summary of the contents for each collection, the online catalogue also includes detailed descriptions of the individual items for most of our collections. Material is continually being added to the catalogue, so please enquire even if you do not find exactly what you are looking for.

Items at the Cathedral Libraries can also be searched by staff, students and members of the public. Please see Lincoln Cathedral information on how to access their catalogue.


If you have any queries regarding the catalogue please contact the Special Collections Librarian.

How to Search

Click on 'Search' and fill in the relevant fields, depending on the level of detail you possess. If you enter more than one word only records which contain both words will be retrieved but these words may not appear next to each other in the record.


To search for an exact phrase, use double quotation marks e.g. "King Arthur". Use an asterisk or star to conduct a wildcard search: for example, Arthur* will search for Arthur, Arthurian, Arthurial etc.

Use the picklist in the bottom right corner to select how many results you want to see at a time, either 5, 10, 20, 50, or all.

Click anywhere within a specific entry to see its detailed catalogue record.


In the 'Ref No' (reference number) field, type the overall collection reference of the collection you want to search followed by an asterix, e.g. LINCOLN CATHEDRAL MS* - note the spaces in the reference - these must be included.


(If you don't know the collection reference, begin with a simple search, as above, to identify the collection in which you are interested).


The following are descriptions of the different searchable fields. You can use more than one field at a time. Enter a word or words in one or more of the following search options:-


  • Any Text: use this field to to search all text (rather than numbers) in all fields in the catalogue. Simply type the word or words into the 'Any Text' search box and click on the 'Search' button at the bottom of the screen. This will retrieve the largest number of hits but is the most useful only if it is not clear which of the other fields needs to be searched.

    To search for an exact phrase, use double quotation marks "……". Where more than one term is entered, the search will automatically retrieve records which contain both terms. These terms may not always appear next to each other in the text.

  • Note: that this type of search will bring up entries for records held in the University Library, in Lincoln Cathedral Library or at Lincolnshire Archives. The location is detailed in the Repository field.

    To find out which collection an entry relates to, click on the 'RefNo' and look at the top line of text immediately above the blue box.

  • Refining my search: 'Any Text', 'Title', and 'Description' all have 'Refine Search Criteria' option. Click on these to define further your search by including or excluding certain search terms.

  • Ref No: If you know the reference number of the collection or item that you are looking for, you can enter it in this field. (e.g. STEAMPUNK PINNICK/20) You can also search for all records in a collection by typing in the collection reference code and adding an asterisk (e.g. STEAMPUNK*). If it does not appear try searching in 'Any Text'.

    This is also useful for restricting your search to one collection e.g. to search for elections in the Dean & Chapter Archive you could put D&C* in the 'RefNo' field and election in the 'Description' or 'Any Text' field.

  • Date: enter a specific date or date range e.g. 1343, 14th century or 1530-1540 in this search box.

  • Title: All records have a title and typing a search term in this box allows a search of all or part of the text in the 'Title' field only.

  • Description: this is used to expand on details in the 'Title' field, so many contain a synopsis or part transcription of the record in question for archival items.


If you have entered more than one search term you can refine your search further within the Any Text, Title and Description searches by selecting 'Refine Search Criteria' which gives you three options:-
  • With all the words - to search for records which contain all your search terms.
  • With at least one of the words - to search for records that contain at least one of the search terms.
  • Without the words - to exclude certain words from your search.


You can also browse the archive collections by finding a particular collection then using the tree mechanism.

To browse a collection you must first find one record from it. This can be done by searching for the Ref No or Title of the particular collection if this is known or by searching for all collection level descriptions by searching for the word fonds in the 'Level' field. Then click to get through to the full catalogue record of the resulting item. Then by clicking on the underlined reference number in the results you will launch the tree browser. This can then be used to browse the whole collection within which your search result features.

A search will produce a list of results, which will be presented in five columns showing the reference number, title, repository, description and multimedia fields. The total number of records found will be shown at the top of the display. If your search has retrieved more than 5 records, they will be displayed on further pages. Select 'Next'/'Last' to scroll through the pages of the list.

Use the picklist in the bottom right corner to select how many results you want to see at a time.

By clicking on the bar containing the field titles, you can sort the hit list by any of the field titles (unless you have too many hits, in which case it might be better to narrow your search).

Click anywhere within a specific entry to see its detailed catalogue record.

To go back to the search results click 'Search results'. Your search term(s) may not appear in the text displayed in the hitlist.

Above the description for the actual record you can see where the record fits within its collection. Click on one of those levels, to see the full catalogue record for that level.

To see the hierarchy for the entire collection click the 'Ref No' (i.e. how it relates to other records in the collection) and see other records within the same collection. This will take you to the hierarchy browser.


Viewing an Item

Once you have found what you are looking for, make a note of the Ref No (reference number) or Class plus title etc., and note the relevant repository and location. 

Archives are arranged into collections called 'fonds' and then sub-divided as needed into 'sub-fonds' (or sub-collections), 'series', 'files' and 'items'. Please see the Glossary of terms below for further information about these archival terms.

Once you know what you are looking for, you can plan your visit.

Glossary of terms

Below are some of the terms you may come across during your search. 

Details of any access restrictions on the material, whether you need to handle the item with care, or the item may be too fragile to be viewed.


This field indicates whether the material can be viewed or not. The majority of items are 'open' and can be viewed. ‘Open’ means you will be able to consult the material. ‘Closed’ means the material is not currently available for consultation. There are a number of reasons why material may be closed. For example, it may contain sensitive personal information, or a depositor may have closed recent items for a set number of years.


Summary details of an archive collection, for example the archives of a particular organisation such as Lincoln Cathedral, or of a person. A collection-level record will usually provide background notes on the creator of the archive (biographies for people or administrative histories for organisations). It will also provide an overview of the types of material available in the collection.


The date(s) of creation of the archive material. Useful for restricting your searches to a specific time period.


Archives are arranged hierarchically and arranged in collections called 'fonds' and then sub-divided, if necessary into lower levels of 'sub-fonds', 'series', 'files' and 'items'. The level thus indicates where the record can be found in the catalogue structure.


This is the highest level of description, which represents an entire archive collection, for example the records created or received by an organisation or individual. The fonds level provides an overview and a summary of the contents of each archive collection.


A series of records within a collection, e.g. diaries and photographs.


The lowest level of description of material in a collection and is used for describing, for example, an individual letter or photograph. This is usually the level at which documents can be requested for research.


This field provides relevant information about any important physical characteristics which might affect a record's use (e.g. pagination, size, illustrations, inscriptions, bookplates, provenance.


Short for reference number. Each entry in the catalogue has a unique reference number (e.g. ETTY/1/23), which you will need when requesting information or to view material.