Database help

The database includes information about:

  • all deposits in the Noel Butlin Archives Centre
  • all series in the University Archives
  • all the organisations and people who created them ('authority records')
  • 60% of individual record items, such as files, as at December 2016

Simple searches

Simple keyword search

A simple keyword search involves putting a term into the search box at the top of the screen and pressing enter to find items, series or deposit descriptions containing the search term in both the ANU Archives and the Noel Butlin Archives Centre.

Predictive text in the search screen

When you start entering a search term the database may offer matching descriptions. Click on a term to go directly to that record.

Display of search results

You can refine search results by selecting terms in the left hand column. Select either Noel Butlin Archives Centre or Australian National University Archives under archival institutions, select level of description tor click on item, deposit or series. Click on the blue titles in the results screen for a full archival description.


    • To browse creators of records: To get a general idea of the contents of the database, click on browse then authority records to see an alphabetical list of over 1300 creators of records. You can then search this list by keyword or narrow your results by entity type such as person or trade union.
    • To browse descriptions: Click on browse then 'archival descriptions' to see an alphabetical list of over 2,000 deposits/series. To browse 200,000 items click the cross next to 'only top level descriptions'. 
    • To browse Pacific Research Archives: Click on browse then 'subjects' then Pacific Research Archives to retrieve all material designated 'Pacific Research Archives'.
    • To browse the National AIDS Archive Collection: Click on browse then 'subjects' then National AIDS Archive Collection to retrieve all material designated 'National AIDS Archive Collection'.

    To undertake a search on authority records (the creators of records):  

    • Click on browse then Authority Records. A 'search authority records' box appears at the top of a list of authority records where you can do a keyword search. Example: If you search authority records for 'Hancock', the results will include Professor W K Hancock and a number of bodies that he was associated with, including the Academic Advisory Committee and the Research School of Social Sciences as well as authority records which mention his surname. If you select an authority record you will see further information about the person or organisation and links to the records they have created under the heading 'Creator of'.

    Other simple searches on authority records

    • Search for places: to identify creators of records in particular cities or countries, eg places:Newcastle. 
    • Search for industries: to identify creators of records about particular industries, eg functions:forestry. 
    • Search for occupations: to identify creators of records about particular occupations, eg functions:bricklayer* (to search on both singular and plural).
    • The entries in 'Functions, occupations and activities' (functions) are controlled by classification lists of industries and occupations (see Reference documents section above).  

    Advanced search

    1. Advanced searching in the search box

    • Use double quotes to search for a phrase: eg "eight hour day" to return descriptions containing these words together in that exact order, and to search for terms that include punctuation, such as reference codes, eg a search for "Z753-4" will return the item with the reference code AU NBAC Z753-4.
    • Use wildcards: ? for a single character, eg organi?er will find both organiser and organizer, and * for multiple characters, eg minute* will find the terms minute, minutes and minutebook. Use this search to find both the singular and plural forms of a word. 

    2. Using the advanced search options

    Click on Advanced search options to bring up the Advanced search screen.

    The advanced search screen allows searching in the item title, scope and contents and identifier (item, series or deposit number) fields among others. This screen also allows Boolean searching using the terms or, and, not after selecting Add new criteria.

    Refine your search by entering a search term, selecting 'any field' or a particular field; title, archival history, scope and content, extent and medium, name access points, or identifier. Then click on 'Add new criteria' to add further search rows, selecting Boolean operators ('and', 'or', 'and not') before each row from the dropdown list.

    You can limit your search by repository (for example, to just the Noel Butlin Archives Centre or the Australian National University Archives) or filter by date range.

    • Click 'Search' to perform the search.

    How the archives are organised

    • The database covers both the Noel Butlin Archives Centre (archives of Australian businesses, industry organisations, trade unions and people) and the University Archives (university units, organisations and people).   
    • Records which form part of these collections which relate to the Pacific are subject-tagged as 'Pacific Research Archives'.  
    • Noel Butlin Archives Centre collections are identified as deposits and University Archives collections as series.  The creators of both deposits and series are described in authority records.   
    • Deposits and series may consist of many items. These are typically files or volumes, or may be maps, plans, sound recordings, films or photographs.

    Viewing the archives

    • The archives can be viewed by visiting our reading room in Canberra. They are not available as digital objects through the database.
    • Over 15,000 digitised photographs and publications are available in the Open Research repository. These are also accessible through the National Library of Australia's Trove.
    • Identify deposits and series of interest: If you identify a deposit or series of interest to you, check the information to the left of the description. If items have been entered they will appear here. Click on individual items to view their descriptions ordo a Quick Search to search within that deposit or series.
    • Identify items you wish to see: Only items can be requested in the reading room, as deposits and series may include many metres of material. Occasionally the whole deposit or series is a small quantity or consists of only one or a few items which can be requested.
    • To view a list on the database: You can select "Browse as list' on the right hand side or produce a report which can be printed. Click on the Report icon to see a complete list for that deposit or series. Select 'item list' and Continue, then sort by Reference code and Continue to view a list to scroll through and print out.
    • Request a copy of the list: If the items for a particular deposit or series have not been entered in the database request a copy of the list at The list will be sent to you as a PDF document attached to an email so that you can select items.
    • Quote the reference code to request a particular item: Examples of item reference codes are: AU ANUA 199-13 and AU NBAC T53-1-3. Note that in these examples the presence of a hyphen indicates that it is the reference code for an item. The reference code for the whole deposit or series in these examples is shorter: AU ANUA 199 and AU NBAC T53.
    • Request your items 2 working days before you plan to visit: Requests received by 1 pm any working day to are retrieved that afternoon and can be viewed the next working day.

    If your search is unsuccessful

    An unsuccessful search does not necessarily mean that we do not have records on your topic. It could mean:

    • Individual items for deposits and series which contain relevant material haven't been entered yet (60% of items are entered as at December 2016). 
    • You are searching for a name which is not mentioned in the title of an item. The item might be titled 'Membership register' but contain thousands of names.  
    • You are searching for a modern term but the records are identified by a term current at the time, eg Ceylon for Sri Lanka.

    The records may be held in another archives:

    Reference enquiries can be sent to These are answered in order of receipt and may take 10 to 15 working days to respond to. An archivist will undertake a search for you and will advise you if we have records relevant to your enquiry.