How to use this database

How to Use the Database


If you decide, after having read through this material, that you wish to use the database, please read below.

This website is designed to allow researchers, students and community members to learn about and gain access to the vast collection of documents relating to the social history of the Eastern Arctic that are located in archives across Canada. It is designed to allow users to locate documents of interest to them, searching by theme (using the keywords), date, catalogue number or any combination of the above. With the results from a search of this database, a person who is looking for particular documents will know where to look in the archives, thus saving much time and energy. In addition, it is hoped that the abstracts themselves are detailed enough that they will provide people who do not have access to the original documents with information about Arctic history that may spark further research or discussion. We are constantly adding to this database and encourage users to return to the website and access this new material.


Every item in the database contains at least one keyword from an extensive list of over 200 words. The list of keywords was generated through years of working with these documents, and gives users a good idea of the range of topics that the documents cover.

For example, some of the most-used keywords are “hunting”, “R.C.M.P.”, and “housing”. A search using any one of these words would turn up hundreds of abstracts. The search can then be refined by restricting the search to a particular date or location; for example, by combining “R.C.M.P.” with “Whale Cove”.

Some keywords are linked to account for the fact that in many of the documents, the same thing is referred to in different ways by different writers. For example, a search for “Arviat” will automatically turn up any documents which include the keyword “Eskimo Point.”

Similarly, a search for “house” will also return documents which contain synonyms such as “shack”, “dwelling,” “igloo” or “snow house”. This means that one search will have a more accurate representation of the variety of documents; however, in order to get the best results it may still be necessary to search for variations on a particular term. For example, person searching for “house” might also want to search for “housing”.

In addition, the database is freely searchable by users who want to input their own keywords, such as a person’s name or a particular date.

Limiting a Search

The database contains almost 10,000 abstracts. A search using one keyword may produce hundreds of results; if you have a specific topic in mind the database will be more useful if you limit your search.
If you are interested in finding material from a particular time period, you can use multiple dates as search terms, i.e. entering the year “1964” and “tuberculosis”.
Alternatively, you can make your search specific to particular communities or regions. Keep in mind, however, that a search for “Keewatin” will find documents mentioning that word; it will not search for individual communities within the region, such as Rankin Inlet. That search will have to be performed separately.
It is also possible to search by catalogue number to find more information about a particular set of files that is of interest.

Structure of Abstracts

Each search will produce a list of abstracts in chronological order, with a number indicating how many abstracts were retrieved for that search. This section describes the different parts of the abstract and their relevance to the actual document.

1. Date

The date is listed first. The initials “n.d.” (no date) indicate that the date could not be determined with any accuracy; these documents will appear at the beginning of all search results. Sometimes a document will have “n.d.” and then a month and year; this indicates that we were more certain about the date the document was produced, from looking at its subject matter or the author.

2. Title

The next part of the abstract is its title, which is underlined. The title is usually taken verbatim from the title provided by the author of the document. If there is no title, as in a letter, the title assigned in the abstract will contain a descriptive sentence about the nature of the document, with as much information as can be ascertained from the document itself, i.e. “Letter to R. A. Gibson, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Mines and Resources, N.W.T. Branch, from J. Cantley, Manager, Baffin Trading Co. Ltd..”

3. Catalogue number

In square brackets is the document’s archival catalogue number, which indicates the source of the document. This can be used as a finding aid to locate the original document.
The most common source of documents is the National Archives of Canada, indicated by the letters “NAC” followed by a catalogue number. In rare cases where there is no catalogue number for the document this has been indicated by the words “no RG”.
Documents in this collection also come from the N.W.T. Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife (indicated by “N.W.T. Archives”), the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Hudson’s Bay Company archives.

4. Our catalogue number

We have developed our own thematically-arranged filing system, indicated by the number in the round brackets. This number is not relevant to most searches, as it indicates where the original document can be found in our own files. However, if you were to visit the University of British Columbia and use the collection, this catalogue number would give you access to the document. For information on visiting the University please contact us.

5. Body of abstract

The body of the abstract should indicate the source of the document (for example, R.C.M.P. report), the kind of document (report, letter, press release, etc.), its author (if known), and a description of the contents of the document. This part of the abstract contains the keywords that will be used in searching. In addition, the text should indicate the length of the document and the level of detail with which the author discusses the subject matter.

The sample search page provides more information about the kind of material that can be found in this database.

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