Searching in the Catalogue

To search the existing records in the archives, please go to our search page.

For help on how best to use the online catalogue search, consult our search guide.

If you need further assistance with your research or if you cannot find what you are looking for then, please contact Archives at (

To begin your search, click one of the Search tab on the top of the page.

Types of search

There are three different types of search options available through the catalogue: Simple, Advanced, and Expert.

Simple search

A Simple search allows users to perform an "any text" search on the catalogue.

  • Enter a word or words which describe what you are looking for, or type an institution name, by separating each word with a space.
  • You can also use an asterisk (*)after a word to look for any word containing the characters entered before the asterisk. Example: child* used for children
  • An asterisk (*) can be used before or after a search term, or both
    Example: *settlement (used for resettlement); *displace* (used for displaced persons).

When you have done a search, and want to search further on the results, you may wish to use the Search in results option under Actions on the left side of the page. If you decide to undertake a completely different search, click on the Clear button.

Advanced search

The Advanced search option allows users to build a more complex search using multiple fields to refine the search. The Advanced search is useful for specific searches and for narrowing down results.

  • Use the drop down list and select the terms that you like to search (click on on the right side of the screen)
  • Enter the search term in one or more fields and click ‘search’

In the Advanced Search you do not have to fill out all fields available on this page.

The Advanced Search page contains the following search options by fields:

  • Word or words from the title or content: Enter one or more words from the title or the content, as each record has a title and a description of content. The sequence of the words is irrelevant; the system will search for all words.

    Example by combining three fields:
    Title/Content: repatriation; Level: Sub-series; Date: 1950 – 1970

  • Archive creator: A list of records creators (both individual and institutions) is available through the UNHCR Archives catalogue.
    • Enter the name of a creator or only the first letters of the name and click Search button.
    • The name should be entered starting with the last name. If you use the first name then it must be separated from the last name by a comma and a space, e.g. Smith, John.
    • You can also select a creator from the existing list, click the on the right side of the screen. Then select the creator.
    • If you want to see all creators starting with a specific letter, e.g. "B", then type the letter in the creator field and you will see the list.

  • Level of description: This field allows you to search records arranged at six levels: Fonds, Sub-fonds, Series, Sub-series, File and Item.
    • Click on the arrow on the right of the box to see the drop down menu, then select the level you need.

    • This option is helpful for browsing records arranged at particular level and excluding other levels. Example: Selecting ‘sub-series’ will show records only at sub-series level OR 'Item' will show records for individual items.

  • Reference Code: This is the unique record reference number. This search option is useful when the code is already known and very often used by the staff in the archives.
    • Enter the full reference code or just first few characters of that reference, then click on Search button
    • You can also find the list of existing reference codes by clicking the on the right side of the field. Select the code you want and then click on Search button.

  • Date
    • Enter a year or range of years in the boxes and then click on Search button – this is the best way to narrow down your search.
    • If you know the date then use exact date, e.g. 1985
    • If you are not sure about the date then use date range, e.g. 1980 – 1990

The catalogue system understands various date formats. However, the best way to narrow your search by date field is to enter a year or range of years. You can also enter days and months.

Expert search

The Expert Search is a precise search option which allows users to undertake complex searches including combined searches. This search option also allows refining your results to a greater accuracy.

This search option allows you to specify search terms with the Boolean operators (‘and’, or, ‘not’ or ‘and not’). It is very useful to eliminate certain records from your search results, by using the 'and not' operator. You can enter the search terms either in upper case or lower case.

  • Click on the drop-down list to the right box and select a field in which you want to search (i.e. title, creator, reference code, or date)
  • Enter the search term in the first value field
  • Select the Truncation checkbox if you want to truncate your search e.g. type ‘child’ to browse the word ‘children’ or type ‘settle’ for the whole words ‘settlement and ‘resettlement’. If you do not want whole word searching, deselect the Truncation checkbox
  • To bring the second value field for entering another search term into your selected field, click on the plus sign to the right.
  • Then select one Boolean option from the drop-down menu for the first row: AND, OR, AND NOT. Then enter your search term.
  • If you wish to add third value field, click on the plus sign and select another Boolean option, enter your search term, then click on search to get your results.

Sort by

You can customize the display of your search results in Title, Creator or Year order by choosing appropriate circle in the Sort by option. Sorting takes some extra response time.

Print and Download

After every successful search there is the possibility to select all files of interest by ticking the box next to each entry; after that, by navigating to the top tab “Selection” you will get the option to print and/or download the list of results by selecting the appropriate button on the left hand side.