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Researching Hospital History at UHN: Using the Archeion Database

This guide will help you find out about our hospital's history and introduce you to resources for archival research.

Glossary of Key Terms

Selected definitions from a Glossary of Archival Terms, Columbia University Libraries (accessed August 5, 2014).

  • Fonds: A French term for the records or papers of a particular individual, institution, or organization. The whole of the records, regardless of form or medium, automatically and organically created and/or accumulated and used by a particular individual, family, or corporate body in the course of that creator's activities or functions.

  • Record group: A body of organizationally related records created or collected by the same individual or agency as part of its functions and activities.

  • Collection: An artificial accumulation of documents of any provenance brought together on the basis of some common characteristic, e.g., way of acquisition, subject, language, medium, type of document, name of collector, to be treated for description purposes as a descriptive unit under a common title.

See also Dictionary of Archives Terminology by the Society of American Archivists.



Using the Archeion Database

Archeion is an online database that provides descriptions of archival records held by UHN as well as other members of the Archives Association of Ontario (AAO). These archival descriptions help you find material in an Archives. The records described online are preserved and made accessible via the individual Archives, and in the case of UHN's records, require a physical visit to access.  

Archival descriptions:

  • can exist for all groups of records within an overall body of archival records
  • provide the context in which records were made and used
  • begin by describing the highest, overarching level as a whole (at UHN this can be fonds, record group or collection) and then move to the smaller groupings (series, sub-series or file). 

To begin your research in UHN's Corporate Archives, you will want to start by looking at either a record group description or a fonds level description from the list of holdings for UHN in the Archeion database. These are the broadest levels of description and give you an overview of what you will find. An example of a fonds level description is pictured below. 

Certain fields can help you figure out whether a body of records is related to your research. If you want to learn more about the files contained within a particular series or sub-series, please contact us.

Title, Dates, Extent

Title: Usually the creator—an individual or group responsible for the origin or existence of records by creating or collecting them.  If you know the name of an individual or group prominent in your field of study, you can use the name to search archival indexes and databases.

Dates: indicate the time period covered by the material in the fonds. Knowing the period can help you determine if the fonds is useful to your research.

Extent: Indicates the amount and format in a fonds. Can help you decide how much time you need. If there are a lot of materials to go through, you may need more time.

Biographical Sketches and Administrative Histories

Biographical Sketch or Administrative History is an overview of the life or history of the creator, providing basic facts and highlights. This provides context about the creation and use of the records and can help you decide if you want to learn more about the material in that fonds.

Scope and Content

Scope and content provides more detailed information about the material, specifically the document types, functions and activities in which the records were used. This can give you a better idea of major groupings in the fonds and main record types and is useful for deciding whether materials are relevant to your research.


A series of notes follow the scope and content. These will indicate additional information including the immediate source of the records and any restrictions on access.

Adapted from (Accessed June 2014)