Here are some quidelines for using the MASC indexes: Use this index to locate material associated with a specific individual. Most often this means letters written by or to the author, but it may also include folders, larger bulks, and collections of material. If you want to know what manuscript material the Department holds for an author, this is the index to use. Examples:

Jones                   will retrieve all records of authors whose last name is Jones.
Jones, A               will retrieve all records of authors whose last name is Jones and first name begins with A. Note the space after the comma.
Jones, Andrew     will retrieve all records of authors whose last name is Jones and first name is Andrew.

Browse the author index if you are unsure of the correct spelling of an author's name.

This is, perhaps, the least useful of the indexes, though it allows you to collate all records for a specific collection. It is probably a better idea to use initial truncation because of the variations of collection names (i.e., "Papers of John Doe", "John Doe Papers", "John Doe Collection" etc.). Example:

*Caroline Gordon    to find all the records of collections with the words Caroline Gordon
 

Use this index to find material related to a specific year. In the actual database record, dates may include brackets ("[date]") to indicate that the year is supplied from other sources, or they may contain a question mark ("[date?]") or circa ("ca.1855") to suggest a reasonable estimate. However, do not use these punctuation marks in your search value, for they have been stripped off for indexing purposes. Examples:

1786        to find material dating from that year

183          to find material dating from the 1830s

Dates for ancient coins are usually not specific to a year--rather, they are representative of a period. Hence, most indexing entries for numismatic records will look like this:

400-300    meaning 400-300 B.C.

103-109    meaning 103-109 A.D.

As a result, you might want to browse the index first and/or familiarize yourself with Library of Congress Subject Headings for Greece and Rome, where appropriate period divisions are given.

Use this index to find material about specific topics, such as the Civil War, or to locate specific kinds of material, such as diaries. Searches in this index are most likely to retrieve collection-level records since subjects and forms of material are most often attributed to aggregate collections of material. (Letters, for example, will not retrieve records describing an individual's letters. For that, use the author index.) For the most part, elements in this index are Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)--so that the search value you use should be constructed, left to right, as a subject heading. Example:

United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865

This applies to forms of material as well, with the form term coming at the end. Example:

Novelists, American--19th century--Diaries

Remember that these phrases can be truncated at any point. If you are unfamiliar with LCSH, you should probably start your subjec/form searches by browsing the index first.

The description element is only found in indexing records to identify the type of material in a particular location: letters, documents, maps, coins, drawings, etc. Using this index, you have access to the most specific information about a given item. Since descriptions are variable, browsing this index will not be that profitable. Instead, it is best to use the word truncation option. Examples:

*drawing
*nassau street
*gold

Common abbreviations for letters are: ALS (autograph letter signed), TLS (typed letter signed), TNS (typed note signed).
Common abbreviations for manuscripts are: AMsS (autograph manuscript signed), TMsS (typed manuscript signed).

This element is found only in collection-level records, and provides (in paragraph form) summary information about the collection: ranges and types of material, people, subjects and places covered. Word searches would prove the most useful. This element constitutes part of the authority record for authors in MASC. It allows one to search for holdings related to authors of different nationalities. In MASC, a nationality is assigned to an author based on residence not birth. If someone was born in France but came to Canada as a small child, his/her nationality would be listed as Canadian. Because so many of the Department's holdings relate to American and English authors, those two nationalites should be avoided. Examples:

Cuban
Italian
South African

This index could be anded with another index to find more specific holdings, i.e., Cuban material from the 1940s.

This element also forms part of the authority record for authors in MASC. It is most closely associated with the academic discipline in which the person worked or where his/her work would be "classified," for example, chemistry, theatre, government. This index would be useful for identifying holdings that may document (or result from) such activities. The difference with the "identity" index is that MASC uses a controlled list of disciplines, which would tend to gather (limit?) groups of people: senators and presidents both have "government" as a discipline. This authority element consists of nouns that help narrow the identity of a particular author, such as "theologian," "illustrator," and "librarian." It is probably most useful when used in connection with another index to seek holdings that are the products of such "authors." MASC identifes all teachers, instructors, and professors as "educators" and all writers as "authors." Examples:

philosopher   [and Subject/Form *correspondence]
clergyman
actor