Naturally, it's possible to search the site via the search box in the top right hand corner of the site. However, to make the most of your time on the site, it's a good idea to understand how the records are arranged in the system.
The archive uses the Rules for Archival Description the Canadian national standard for archival description, codified by the Canadian Council of Archives.
The overriding concern of the RAD system is to -- as much as possible -- maintain the actual arrangement of the files as they were used in real life. The term for such an aggregation of documents is fonds. The concept is originally French, although now it is used in archives in Canada, Austrailia and the UK.
A "fonds" differs from a "collection" in that the latter is an artificial grouping of documents while the documents in a fonds were grouped as they were while the documents were in use. For example, if you were organizing the documents from two separate parishes, you could -- if you wanted to -- pull all the birth registers from both and create a collection of birth registers. Although this has certain advantages if you're trying to find a birth record, it does introduce some difficulty if you're trying to do historical research on a specific parish. Using collections, the records of a parish would be broken down and scattered amongst the records of other parishes, making it very difficult to understand the historical context of a particular one. Therefore, In order to maintain the historical context of the documents, to "...preserve existing relationships between records and the evidential value inherent in this order."(RAD P3.0) you keep all the records of the parish together as a set, a fonds.
All of our fonds are listed under Holdings in the left hand navigation bar. The fonds are generally organized by parish, residential school name, and under each you will find sub-groupings, generally called "series" which represent a block of records, for example "birth records", or "financial statements". Inside of these sub-groupings are the actual items themselves. Not every fonds has series.
There are special fonds as well, for example a person of great historical note (a bishop for example) will have their own fonds. This is appropriate as such a person might have copious records and even if they might technically be part of a parish fonds (because in actual life they worked there) it would make a long and unwieldy hierarchy of records to drill through. RAD does make provision for exceptions in order to aid access:
"To ensure effective access to archival material, decisions related to description and the choice of access points should reflect the archivist’s obligation to all users. The rules in this standard should be applied in a way that results in descriptions and access points suited to both institutional and research needs."(RAD P1.0)
Generally the access points at the Algoma University Archive are: