Indexing Scientific Archives

What is an archival index?

An archival index is a comprehensive and organised list or catalogue of the contents within an archive. It serves as a finding aid, enabling users to locate specific items or groups of materials within the archive. The index provides descriptive information about each item, such as titles, authors, creators, dates, subjects, keywords, locations, formats or any other relevant metadata, to facilitate efficient retrieval and research. The index may also include cross-references or links between related items to facilitate exploration and research. The CSA can help with indexing scientific archives.

Archival indexes can take different forms depending on the nature of the archive and its materials. They can be physical documents, such as printed finding aids or index cards, or they can be digital databases or online systems that allow for searchable access to the archive’s contents.

What is the purpose of an archival index?

The purpose of an archival index is to provide researchers, historians, archivists, or other users with a means of navigating the archive, discovering relevant materials, and understanding the scope and nature of the collection. It aids in organising and categorising the materials, making it easier to locate specific items or groups of items based on specific criteria or search terms.

Overall, an archival index plays a vital role in the accessibility and usability of an archive, providing users with a roadmap to navigate and discover the rich resources contained within the collection.

How can the CSA help with indexing scientific archives?

Through a combination of our experienced team, our technology partners who are expert in their field, and the CSA’s access to some of the UK’s leading archivists, we are uniquely placed to provide advice and guidance.

For more information on how to use existing indexes, how to create digital versions, or how to create new indexing systems from scratch please contact us at