How Our Records are Organized

As you begin your search, please pay attention to the types of record you are seeing in our catalogue. The records in the United Nations Archives are organized in a hierarchical structure, with multiple interrelated levels that reflect the arrangement of the records. [see graphic below] 

The highest level of the hierarchy is called a Fonds, this consists of all the records created by an entity, office, or mission (for example the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). In the UN Archives a Fonds is also called an Archival Group (AG) and you can tell that you are looking at a Fonds level record by these two letters followed by a three-digit number (AG-001, AG-002, etc.).

The next level, which sometimes, but not always exists under a Fonds, is a Sub-Fonds. This is typically large volume of related records originating in a division or unit that is part of the main office, for example the Office of the Deputy Secretary-General is a Sub-Fonds of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Fonds. A Sub-Fonds is indicated by the “AG” Fonds number, followed by another three-digit number which indicates the Sub-Fonds: AG-069-001.

The next level is called a Series, which is typically a group of similar records kept together in a filing system because they relate to the same function or activity or have the same form. For instance, the Sub-Fonds of the Deputy Secretary-General contains four series amongst which are the Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson's Trips series and the Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson's Activities series. All series are indicated by an “S” followed by a four-digit number (S-1945, S-1959, S-1022, etc).

The next level is called a Box; however this level does not appear in our AtoM catalogue which immediately proceeds from a series to file level. The box record number consists of a series record number with an additional four-digit number: S-1959-0005 (this indicated that it is box number 5 of that particular series; S-1022-0100 (this is box 100 of that particular series).

The next level is called a file, which is a group of items of related by use or topic, typically housed in a folder. For instance, outgoing correspondence, meeting notes, or a set of clippings. All file level records are indicated by a series number followed by two sets of numbers indicating the box and the location of the folder within that box: S-1959-0005-0001. S-1022-0100-15. The last set of numbers may have four- or two-digit number. 

The final level is called an item level and indicates a single thing that can be distinguished from a group and that is complete in itself. For instance, a single outgoing letter, a speech, or a report. An item level records consists of four sets of numbers which indicate the series, the box, the folder, and the item: S-1959-0005-0001-00005.