Using the FHYA

Quick links for information on:

How the material is organised on the site
How to search
How to make a contribution

Some useful terms to know before we get started:

Tree view:

The tree view shows you at glance where you are in the hierarchical organisation of the material. It is a contextual and navigation element located in the context menu for archival descriptions, places, and subjects. It shows the current record’s relationships to other records, with links, e.g. the hierarchical placement of archival descriptions within a fonds, or the hierarchical placement of a term (such as a subject or place) within a taxonomy. The tree view can also be used for navigation.


Holdings is a generic term referring to the records and other materials held by archival institutions. In AtoM a list of holdings is displayed in the context menu on archival institution view pages.


The FHYA has created this level of description to signal that the project has selected certain materials to upload and this can be viewed as a curatorial intervention.


This refers to institutions or private collectors which hold custody of the items that the FHYA has selected to appear on the site.


This refers to the repositories (including the Private Collection category and the Library) which house the items which the FHYA draws on.

Archival Descriptions:

Archival descriptions occur at all levels (collections, selections, series, files, items, and variations of these in accordance with institutional standards). They offer contextual information about the archival materials at each level.

Makers and Shapers (Authority Records):

Makers and Shapers (Authority) Records identify and offer information about the various actors involved in the making and handling of collections, selections, series, files and items.

Public Inputs:

These are direct contributions made by members of the public on the FHYA website. These include as texts, sound or images uploaded by members of the public as Additional Resources, as well as public comments linked to archival items that may include references, links to other websites and links to material that the member of the public has uploaded on the FHYA as Additional Resources.

Additional Resources:

Additional Resources are supplementary materials uploaded by the FHYA and members of the public. These include bibliographies, books, articles, images, and whole collections. These resources are collected together in a “Library hosted by the FHYA”, which is positioned as an Institution and appears on the Institutions page.

How is material organised on the site?

The FHYA uses a form of open source software called AtoM that organises material in terms of levels. Users will find it helpful to pay attention to which “level” the searched for item is located.

Repositories: All the archival items on the FHYA are presented as items within repositories, or in private hands. You can access these by clicking “Browse by” on the left-hand side of the screen. Clicking on a particular repository will take you to the repository’s page where you will find information about the repository as well as contact details, including a url for the repository where available.

Collections: On the left-hand side of a repository page, the user will find a list of ‘Holdings’, or selections that the FHYA has made from the repository. These are the FHYA’s top level of organisation. In some cases, such as the Killie Campbell Africana Library for instance, the user will also find ‘empty’ holdings. These serve as placeholders for relevant collections / further materials from the Killie Campbell African Library for which the FHYA does not have permission to make available online.

FHYA Selections: In some instances, the user can find a whole collection on the 500 Year Archive site site. In other instances, the FHYA has made selections from a collection in line with the FHYA’s temporal and regional focus. These are represented by the FHYA on the ‘selection’ level. In the case of the James Stuart collection, the FHYA provides the six volumes of published edited texts based on this collection, and the handwritten pages on which 168 pages of published text are based. The reason for this limited selection is explained on the selection level.

Series: Within a ‘selection’, archival items are arranged into ‘series’, typically representing a series of information collected by a certain collector. In the case of the James Stuart collection the volumes of published edited text appear as a discrete series, alongside further series. Another series comprises the photocopies of the handwritten Stuart notes used by the editors to prepare the published volumes, while a third series is a digital Archival Research Tool designed by the FHYA which, amongst other things, links pages in the published text directly to the photocopies of the handwritten notes on which they are based.

Items: The series comprise ‘digital items’ (digital representations of each specific object/sound recording/video file and digital representations of items such as catalogue cards associated with these objects etc). In the case of the published volumes based on the James Stuart collection each volume is divided into about 20 discrete “chapters” made up of texts organised under the names of the main interlocutors with whom Stuart held conversations. Each of these chapters appear as an ‘item’.

How do I search the site?

Basic searches:

Basic searches can be conducted using the search bar on the top of the FHYA home page.This remains an option at all levels as you navigate through the site. Basic searches query all fields in each record.

As you click your cursor in the search box you will be given some search tips which you may find useful.

Like Google, as you type, you’ll see automatically-generated descriptions that match your search. You can click on one of the “quick results” or click on the magnifying glass/"Search" button to search more results.
If you use a search term with more than one word, e.g. James Stuart the default setting AND will apply. This means that if you enter more than one word, the search will bring up results for “first word” and “second word”. The button “Add new criteria” allows you to employ AND/OR/NOT in order to create a narrower search.

Narrow your results by:

The search results screen will show all records that match your term(s). The results will show all record types (Archival Descriptions, Makers and Shapers, Public Input, Additional Resources and Repositories) in which the search term occurs. The type of record is indicated below each search result. You can further narrow your search by “type” by clicking on that type in the left-hand bar, in this example by Archival Descriptions.
Once you narrow your results by a certain type of record, further “Narrow by” options will become available.

Options include:

Within Archival Descriptions:
1. Part of
2. Repositories
3. Level of Description
4. Media Type

Within Makers and Shapers:
1. Entity type

Within Repositories:
1. Archive Type
2. Geographic Region
3. Locality

Please note that the advanced search options are also available at this point when you ‘narrow by’ Archival Descriptions and Repositories. More about the advanced search below.

Sort by:

After clicking through to your results, you can also choose a “Sort by:” option from the drop-down list on the right-hand side of the results page.
Browse/Browse by:

You can also search using the “Browse” option which appears on the left hand side and top of the page. The categories available in the browse menu are:

  • Repositories (which house material from our partner institutions as well as private collections)
  • Makers and Shapers (which offers the biographies of the people/institutions who were in any way involved in the ‘handling’ of an item. Makers and Shapers also links you to the archival descriptions in which these people/institutions are key actors.)
  • Archival Descriptions
  • Additional Resources
  • Public Input and Digital items.

If you browse by Archival Descriptions, by default you will see top-level descriptions (e.g. a selection or a series) that contain many other records. To see all levels (i.e. all of the records within a selection or series), click the “x” next to “Only top-level descriptions”
If you want to see all of the media (i.e. scanned images, digital photographs, sound and moving image item etc.) on the FHYA, browse by Digital Objects. Some Archival Descriptions do not have Digital Objects attached to them. If you want to see Archival Descriptions (including those without Digital Objects) click the “x” next to “With digital objects”.

Search within a holding/selection/repository

The left-hand Quick Search box can conveniently be used to browse within the repository you are currently viewing. Click in the "Quick Search" box and enter your search term. Click on the magnifying glass or press ‘enter’ to run the search.
Your search results will appear directly under the search box. Some of the titles may be cut off, but you can hover over the results and see the complete title and the reference code (if applicable).
Click one of the results to view the complete record. You will be taken to that item and, again, be able to see where it is located in the holding via the tree-view above it.

Advanced search:

Advanced Search is a way to tailor your query if you are getting too many search results in the basic search. Please be aware that the advanced search option only applies to institutional materials -Archival Descriptions, Repositories and Digital Objects- not Public Input or Additional Resources. After clicking through to one of these types via the “Narrow your results by Type” on the left-hand side, you will then see the Advanced Search option.

The Advanced Search box allows you to target your search to specific fields in the records and offers a set of search filters to focus your search even further.
Type your search term into the search box and use the drop-down menu to select a field. The options include:

Any field - will search all of the fields below
Title - this will search titles at all levels of description (e.g., fonds, series, file, etc.)
Archival /custodial history - this will search descriptive histories about the creators of archival material (e.g., persons, families, corporate bodies)
Scope and Content - this will search free-text notes about the types of material in each collection
Extent and Medium - (physical description) this will search notes about the size and format of the material in each collection
Identifier - this will search the unique identifier associated with a collection. Great for finding specific collections if you know the identifier (example JL-C-23)
Digital object text - computer files that can be uploaded into and displayed by AtoM; they can include scanned images, digital photographs, sound and moving image files, and other scanned or born-digital items.

There are multiple “filter results by” options too.

Your search results will appear under the Search button. Keep in mind that your results will include all Levels of Description (e.g. series, sub-series, files etc) unless you have also used the Level of Description filter. Reference codes will be indicated in the search results when applicable

How can I interact with the site?

This function offers a space for users of the 500 Year Archive to add materials relevant to the item at which the user is currently viewing. Such materials could take the form of additional or related information, further details, pointers to comparative items, possible corrections, alternative accounts, references, personal knowledge, translations, interpretations, family histories, photographs, recordings, maps, references to published or unpublished studies, or even full copies of such studies where copyright allows. Public contributors can both type a contribution directly into the comment box provided, or upload a file with text, photographs, recordings etc.
Users who wish to comment on archival items and/or contribute material to the site need to register in order to do this.


You will see a log in button at the top right-hand corner of the screen. Once you the log in button it prompts them to either log in if they are already registered, or to press the register hyperlink.

a) Add in a username in the first box
b) Add in your email address in the second box
c) Write a short bio in the box below “About Yourself”.
d) Click reCaptcha

A confirmation email will be sent to you. If you do not receive the email, please be sure to check your spam/junk mail folder.

Once you receive the email, follow the link in the email and log in with the auto-generated password.

Once you are logged in, the log-in button changes into that user’s profile button - this will be indicated by the username. You can edit your profile and biography. To change your password, click ‘reset password’.

Contributions and comments:

Once you are logged in, you can make a Public Input contribution by typing in the box below each archival description, additional resource, repository page, and authority record.

In addition, you can add links and/or upload media files in the following formats:

  • Text files should preferably be in a searchable PDF format,
  • sound files should be in MP3 format,
  • video should be in MP4 format.

The FHYA does not vet or arrange this material and cannot guarantee its accuracy. The FHYA reserves the right to remove anything deemed to be racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise offensive.

Contributors may wish to upload materials which are not related to a particular item, but to the FHYA as a whole, or to sections of the FHYA. These might be substantial, such as a whole collection of items. In that case the public contributor should go directly to Additional Resources and upload the materials there. Public contributors may be individuals, groups or institutions.

All of the contributed material is searchable by other users of the 500 Year Archive site. In every instance, the source of the materials (i.e. the username of the person who uploaded the materials, and any other producers of the materials whom the contributor identifies, such as the maker of an item or the author of a book), any further information about an uploaded resource provided by the contributor, and the date of the contribution, will be visible to others who wish to consult the material uploaded by a public contributor.

Contributions by members of the public who have registered accounts are asked by the FHYA to ensure that the contributions are either old enough to be out of copyright or that they have the necessary permissions to upload material and for it to be made available on the FHYA under the CC BY-NC-ND