How to Use Our Site

The Archives Holdings website allows researchers to browse and search archival descriptions of World Bank Group records in the Archives’ custody. In some cases, the website also provides immediate access to declassified records that have been digitized.

Our site is constantly growing as new descriptions are regularly published and newly digitized records are linked to the site.

We hope that our site is intuitive and easy to navigate. We have, however, put together a short guide that introduces you to the site and offers guidance on how best to navigate it.

Beginning your research – Using the Archives’ other resources

The World Bank Group Archives’ holdings are voluminous and so before using the Archives Holdings website, it may be helpful to investigate other resources and information products offered by the World Bank Group Archives and the World Bank. These tools can inform your search for records or answer your research question without having to view archival records. For example:

  • The Documents and Reports database provides access to thousands of Bank authored reports, including: Board Documents; Economic and Sector Work reports; project documents; and publications and research.
  • The Projects & Operations Portal contains information on World Bank projects implemented around the world. Project information and public documents related to the project are accessible here in addition to lists of archival records related to the project that are in the Archives’ custody. Records that have been digitized are viewable here as well.
  • The Oral History Program provides transcripts and summaries of Bank staff interviews conducted since 1961.

Also, to familiarize yourself with our archival descriptions and the types of records available to you, refer to the About Our Records and Finding Aids information page. You will find links to pages that provide introductions to our records and finding aids.

Search tips

There are a number of ways to search and browse our archival finding aids:

  • The basic search is the simplest way to begin navigation of the Archives Holdings site. Search our descriptions using keywords or employ more advanced searches using special characters (quotation marks, asterisks, question marks, etc.) or Boolean search. The basic search is found at the top right of every page. Search results will appear as you type and will offer the title of descriptions as well as authority records for records’ creators. By pressing ‘Enter’, all of the results, both descriptions and creators of records, will appear on a new page. Search results can be filtered with the facets found on the left side of the screen. At present, the most effective method of narrowing down your search is by selecting the level of description (i.e. fonds, series, folder, etc.) you consider most helpful in your search. Remember, the fonds-level description, which is the highest level in a hierarchical archival description, will usually contain the most information related to the context of the records’ creation.
  • Advanced searching is also available by clicking on the search bar and selecting “Advance search” from the dropdown that appears. As before, enter a search term in the search field using keyword or more advanced search strategies. Use the “Any field” dropdown to select a specific descriptive field to search. Employ additional criteria by clicking the “Add new criteria” dropdown to add a new search criterion. Use the search filters on the left side to limit your search.
  • You may also browse archival descriptions by selecting one of the “Browse by” options that are located on the left side of the home page screen. As with search results, you can filter your browse by using the facets found on the left side of the screen. Results will be organized alphabetically, but they may be reorganized according to the date the description was published by selecting “Most Recent” from the drop-down on the top right corner of the results page.
  • Another browsing option is the List of Fonds page where you can view a list of fonds-level descriptions arranged by topical groupings.

Navigating between levels in a fonds-level description

Having selected a result from your search or browse to view, it is important to situate yourself within the hierarchy of the fonds. The “tree-view” element, located at the top of the description, indicates your location in the hierarchy of a single fonds description while providing you with easy mobility between levels.

Keep in mind that even if you have identified a description that appears to be relevant to your research question, it is important to go to the highest level of the description – the fonds-level – in order to gain relevant contextual information. One of the principles of our descriptive practice is that information common to component parts is only provided at the highest level. Because all the records in a fonds are created by a single creator, information about that creator will only appear at the highest level.
Also note that many of our descriptions have only been described to the fonds-level. Description to the series-level of these descriptions is planned and will be published on our website upon completion.

Identifying records for request

Researchers can further evaluate the relevance of records in a fonds by reading the Scope & Content field. In cases where only fonds-level description has been completed, this information will be extensive but more general in nature. Review the fonds-level Scope & Content information and use this information to guide your discussion with an archivist once a request has been submitted.

For fonds that have been described to the series-level, the Scope & Content information in the series-level description will be more specific. Furthermore, most series-level descriptions provide a folder-level list of records contained in the series; either scroll down to the Finding Aids field and click on the link provided or click on the “Inventory list” button just below and to the right of the tree-view box. A list of folder and/or item titles available for request will appear.

Accessing digitized records

The World Bank Group Archives digitizes its declassified paper records and posts them online. This is a long-term project but, while only a small amount of digitized records are currently available, more records are added to this site on a regular basis.

Digitized records are accessible through the Archives Holdings website. One way to locate them is to conduct a keyword or advanced search as described above. Upon receiving the results of your search, there will be a line at the top of your results stating how many results contain digital objects. By selecting “Show results with digital objects”, your search will be limited to only those results containing digital objects.

Alternatively, digitized records are accessible through the inventory list feature in series-level descriptions. As described above, produce the inventory list for a series in which you are interested. Folders that have been digitized will be hyperlinked.

In order for digitized records to surface in our Archives Holdings website, series-level descriptions need to have been completed. Note that a significant number of digitized records are project records belonging to the Regional Vice Presidents fonds. The Projects & Operations Portal features an Archival Records tab that will provide links to project records, including those that have been digitized. After identifying World Bank projects of interest, check to see if the project’s records have been made available digitally by visiting the Portal website.