Guide to searching the catalogue

About the catalogue

Our catalogue contains descriptions of most of the archive collections and material held at the Kent History and Library Centre. It includes general descriptions of our collections as well as detailed information on specific records including titles, descriptions and dates. In some cases there can be a detailed synopsis or part transcript of the document in question often translated from old and middle English or Latin. There are thousands of records on the catalogue already and it is being added to on a regular basis.

Some local studies material is included, particularly maps and images, but most of the book collection is on the main Kent Libraries catalogue. The types of collections we hold include family and estate papers, local authority records, school records, church and Diocesan records and the records of organisations and groups in Kent.  Please note that the following areas, which were historically part of Kent, have their own archive services, collections and catalogues: Medway, Bromley, Greenwich, Bexley and Lewisham.

How to use the catalogue

To get started simply type a keyword or phrase into the search box at the top of the page.  Enter a particular keyword, combination of words or a reference number. This will return search results with the records displayed in order of the most relevant first.

  • Search for an exact phrase by using quotation marks, e.g. “Channel Tunnel”.
  • For a wild card search use an asterisk  e.g. “Bate*” will find “Bates”, “Bateson” and “Bateman”
  • Search for a specific word in conjunction with a collection or another word use +
  • Search for records but don’t want any to have a specific second word use  – .
  • These can also be used together.  This will result in the listing the records which have the first word but don’t have the second, for example: +Jane -Austen will find all records with ‘Jane’ but without ‘Austen’ in them.

The results page will display basic information about each record and a thumbnail image where available.

Select ‘View Record’ to view the full description, order or view the original record or browse that particular collection.

  • You can sort the results list by title, date or level (i.e. collection, series or item).  Simply use “Sort By” in the left hand panel to select the relevant option.


This shows further information about the record.  Having found a document of interest you can then:

  • Browse this collection – this shows how the item fits into a collection, so you may be able to find related items.
  • Leave a user comment – if you want to supply some relevant information about the item, you’ll need to register to enable you to do this. Comments are monitored and will not appear immediately.

Further search options and tips

Once you have your initial search results, you can filter this using the options in the left hand panel.

For instance, you can filter the results to show only those which include an image. The filter is also particularly useful for formats – for example to find photographs or maps. However, please note that the results will depend on how well the records are indexed.  In particular, the subject, people, place and date filters will not provide comprehensive results.

  • To narrow your search to material from a particular date use the Date filter.

You can also use the “Advanced” button (at the right of the search bar) to make your initial search more specific as well as restrict the search to exact phrases.

Collection allows you to define whose records you wish to search by checking the tick boxes on the page – if you leave them all unticked it is presumed you want to search all collections. So you can search all, or pick just one, or any combination as suits your needs.

Description: This is used in the catalogue record to expand on details in the Title field so may contain more names of places and people and also synopsis or part transcriptions of the record in question

Person, Organisation refers to the people or organisations associated with individual items. This may be the name of an artist whose work is held by one of the museums, a company which made one of the museum objects or the person or company associated with a photograph or some other item from the archives.

Place, Postcode allows you to search for items across the collections relating to a particular city, area, town or street name.

Date: Specific years or a range of years, e.g. 1530-1540 or 19th cent, can be entered in this search box.

Keywords: Use this to search all text (rather than numbers) in all fields in the catalogue. It is likely to retrieve the largest number of hits but is the most useful if it is not clear which of the other fields to use

Document reference (Identifier): Where you know a particular reference or finding number for the collection or document you are interested in this is the search box to use.

Title: All catalogue records and records for collections 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. At collection level this is likely to contain details such as the name of a parish, town, school, charity, business or family. For example a search for `Lenham’ will retrieve all records with this word in the title including Lenham Parish, Lenham School, Lenham Hill Farm, Lenham High Street.

Combining words in a Search

Using Boolean syntax can help narrow searches results further. When you type a search phrase, normally the search results contain all of the words.

  • For example, a search for Lullingstone Castle will bring up records containing the words Lullingstone AND Castle.

If you want to search for records with one word or another word, use OR in capitals.

  • For example, a search for Channel OR Tunnel will bring up records containing both the words Channel and Tunnel followed by records containing just the word Channel, and then records containing just the word Tunnel.

If you want results that contain one word but not the other, use NOT in capitals.

  • For example, a search for Vita NOT Sackville will bring up records containing the word Vita, but will not return records that contain both the words Vita and Sackville.

Searching specific fields

When you type a word or phrase in the free text search it searches all the catalogue fields at the same time.

You can use the Advanced Search to narrow your search to specific fields in the catalogue record. You can also do this from the simple text search by using a field qualifier. Field qualifiers include:

  • dc.title  – searches the title field.
    • Example: dc.title:railway
  • dc.description – searches the description field.
    • Example: dc.description:Stanhope
  • dc.identifier – searches the reference field.  This is useful if you already know the catalogue reference.
    • Example:  dc.identifier:NR
  • dc.creator – searches only the Person, Creator and Organisation fields. This will only find records that have been name indexed by the Archivist.
    • Example:  dc.creator:Brown
  • date_earliest or latest – can be used in several different ways to search the date fields.
    • Example: date_earliest:1900
    • Example: date_earliest:[1900 TO 1910]
    • Example: date_earliest:[1900 TO 1910]   date_latest:[1940 TO 1950]

If you can’t find what you are looking for please do contact us at [email protected] for advice