NBA Archon FAQ

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These are frequently asked questions about Archon at the Niels Bohr Archive ("NBA Archon").

This Page

Q. How was the page started?

A. The page at first consisted of answers to questions that users of NBA Archon were perceived as most likely to ask.

Q. How will the page develop?

A. The goal of the page is to answer questions that users actually ask. Please send us an email at We will first try to answer them by writing to you directly. If the question is deemed of general interest or is also asked by other users, we will add your question and its answer to this page.


Q. What is Archon?

A. Archon is a software developed at the University of Illinois to handle and make available information regarding archival material.

Q. Why did NBA choose Archon?

A. Archon is an open source software recommended to us by trusted colleagues in the international scientific archives community. The originators of Archon have furthermore proved willing to help us streamline the software for the specific needs of the NBA.

Information about collections

Q. Do I need to log in to obtain information about collections?

A. No, there is no need to log in. Information about our collections are open to all users of the internet.

Q. What has happened to information about archival collections previously available at the NBA website?

A. Information about our archival material was previously available on our website only at the collection level. All this information has been moved to Archon. As a temporary measure the original list of collections has been retained outside Archon, in each case with links to the collection information inside Archon. One of our future projects is to include this list within Archon itself.

Q. Are there detailed Finding Aids to individual collections?

A. Over the last several years detailed Finding Aids were developed in various formats at the NBA for staff use only. As part of a pilot digitization project supported by a grant from the proceeds of the Danish National Lottery administered by the Danish Ministry of Science, Finding Aids, which had already been created in one or another electronic form, were adapted to allow their import into NBA Archon. As a result, information about some of our most important collections -- such as the Bohr Scientific Correspondence (which exists on microfilm), a substantial supplement to this collection, the Bohr Private Correspondence and the George Hevesy Scientific Correspondence -- can now be seen on the document level. Since this information was originally made for internal use and since errors may furthermore have been introduced in the transfer to NBA Archon, a substantial proof-reading effort remains. Nevertheless, already in its present form we expect the information to be of great use to researchers.

Q. What Finding Aids will be added in the future?

A. This depends on whether we can obtain funding for the work and what users will be asking for. To the extent that existing resources allow, we will continue to add Finding Aids prepared for staff use on paper only.

Archival documents in collections

Q. Who has access to the archival documents in NBA Archon?

A. Whereas information about our collections is open on all levels, only bona fide scholars with well-defined historical projects can access the archival material itself. Such access may be obtained upon approval of an application form, which should be filled out and returned to the NBA by regular mail.

Q. Which archival documents can now be seen in Archon?

A. The major part of the already mentioned pilot project consisted of digitizing original archival material, both to keep it safe and to make the material available to researchers directly through Archon. Since tape recordings and films were in greater danger of deterioration than paper, the Niels Bohr Film Collection, the Niels Bohr Sound Recordings of Lectures and Interviews and Niels Bohr on Danish Radio were chosen for digitization under the pilot project. In addition, the relatively small collection of the Niels Bohr Political Papers, which has proved of special interest to historians, was chosen as a test case for digitizing paper collections. The archival content of all these collections is now available in Archon.

Q. Which documents will be added in the future?

A. Since digitization is a work-intensive process, substantial economic support is required and priorities must be made carefully. For the time being, the NBA has no special support for the purpose, and digitization can be conducted only to the extent that our limited resources allow. Since our most used document collection, the Bohr Scientific Correspondence, is available on microfilm in several repositories around the world, we have deemed that the Bohr Private Correspondence and a supplement to the Bohr Scientific Correspondence have highest priority. In addition, we seek to satisfy researchers' requests to digitize specific documents and make them available through Archon.

Q. How are the documents digitized?

A. Paper documents are first scanned as high-quality tiff-files. Low-resolution pdf versions -- most often in black-and-white to render the best readability -- made from these files are then made available in Archon. Sound and film have likewise been digitized in high resolution and made available in Archon in lower quality. In all cases, the high-resolution files are maintained on hard-disk in a safe place.

Finding around

The following questions pertain to finding around in Archon without the special search option, which is described in the following section.

Q. How do I find a particular collection in NBA Archon?

A. For the time being, the easiest way is to link from the list of collections, which is presently placed outside Archon. Alternatively, one can choose the "Collections" option within Archon itself. This provides an alphabet, in which you can click on any of the letters, thus seeing in each case the names of which collections start with this particular letter. This is inconvenient, as the name of a collection may not be self-evident. In the future we intend to replace the alphabet with the full list of collections, so that all information about archival material can be retrieved within Archon itself.

Q. How do I find a particular archival document in NBA Archon?

A. An archival document can best be found either by means of the search function (see below) or in the Finding Aid of the collection in which the document is expected to be. The Digital Content option should not be used, as the names of the documents supplied with this option have no self-evident reference to the documents themselves and as the number of digitized documents are simply too many. The use of the Digital Content option will be omitted in future versions of NBA Archon.

Q. Are the collections indexed?

A. All collections are indexed, but only on the collection level. Therefore, the functionality of the Subjects option is limited, and in most cases it may be more useful to employ the search option (see below) instead.

Q. How can I learn about the creator of one or more collections?

A. A brief biography of a creator can always be found in the main information of the relevant collection. However, the creators constitute an independent database and can as such also be accessed by means of the Creators option in Archon. Here again one only obtains an alphabet and is compelled to guess the first letter of the name of a given creator. In future versions of NBA Archon, we expect to replace the alphabet with a full list of the creators.

Q. Are the collections organized by types (e.g., paper, sound, etc)?

A. Yes, they are, and this may at present be the most convenient way of finding collections within Archon itself. Browsing by Record Group gives access to all collections according to a predefined system of categories.

The Search Option

The following questions and answers refer to use of Archon's specific search function (on the top left of every page), which allows the user to search for information in the database.

Q. Are all fields searchable?

A. Practically all text fields are searchable. A notable exception is the 'date' field, with the result that documents can neither be searched nor sorted by date. We consider this an important feature and hope to be able to add it in the future.

Q. What is searched for when I enter a single term?

A. The search engine looks for terms containing or consisting of the combination of letters submitted.

Q. What is searched for when I enter more than one term?

A. The search engine looks for records containing all letter combinations you submit.

Q. How do I search for an exact phrase containing more than one term?

A. Enclose the phrase in quotation marks.

Q. How do I search for a result not containing a specific term or phrase?

A. Use a minus sign before it (e.g. 'Bohr -Niels' finds all Bohrs except Niels Bohr (assuming that the first name is explicitly provided).

Q. Can I otherwise limit my search?

A. You can limit your searches to specific collections, subjects, creators or classifications.