What are catalogues and why are they important?

Archives need to document their collections, and cataloguing is a major part of that. A catalogue is a finding aid: a tool that is used by both archivists and researchers to know what is in the archive, what condition it is in, how it relates to other material within the archive, and (for archivists) where it is located and its conservation/preservation needs. A complete, detailed catalogue includes contextual information on a record’s creator, such as a biographical history if it is an individual, and may also include information on where the records were before they arrived at that particular archive. Accurate descriptions allow a researcher to quickly identify which records they would like to view, and, as each catalogued item has its own unique reference number, citing records correctly is made much easier. 

Within an archive there are 
fonds. These are collections of records that have originated from the same source. At the National Archives there are 82 collections of records which have been created by the administration of Malta over approximately the last 500 years. Catalogues for these fonds exist in both paper format and electronic format. 


‘AtoM’ is an acronym for “Access to Memory”: is an open source archival description tool developed by the International Council on Archives (‘ICA’). ICA-AtoM is multi-lingual and provides public and institutional access to the holdings of archival repositories.

Why ICA-AtoM?

is a free and open source software; the database would be online, accessible from our website and searchable on internet; it was based on the ICA descriptive standards and provided the opportunity to bring our documentation up to that standard; it facilitated multiple repositories. Researchers can find in this software information about Fonds and Items: biographical history of record’s creator, description of scope and content, physical characteristic, languages of the record, general notes and in some case also the digital format of the documents.

HMML National Archives of Malta

Archives Portal Europe

The Archives Portal Europe provides access to information on archival material from different European countries as well as information on archival institutions throughout the continent.