Finding Aids Help

Organization of the Site

You can search for finding aids (also called collection guides) from many different archives or libraries -- referred to as Repositories -- at once, or restrict your search to one Repository.

Accessing the Archival Collections

While some of the material in some collections has been digitized (marked with Online ) or can be digitized, the vast majority is available only in a physical format in person. Access varies from collection to collection; information can be found at the bottom of every collection page under the Using These Materials heading.

How to Search

Unlike the previous finding aids site, it is possible to focus or expand your search to many collections in many repositories.

  • Within all collections in all repositories
  • Within all collections in one repository
  • Within one collection

If you want to search only materials available in a particular repository, choose it from this list and searches in the website header will be restricted to their collections only. This is also true if you are on a collection page and choose to search All Collections -- this will be all collections in the same repository as the current collection you are viewing.

Keyword Searching

The most common type of search, a keyword search finds collections with all the words you enter anywhere within the finding aid.

Using a single term
Using a number of terms
francis kelsey
Using a phrase (a number of terms in quotation marks) to get an exact match
"kelsey museum"

Broadening Your Results

You can search more collections or repositories, or you can try using wildcards to find different forms of a word you are searching.

Wildcard Searching

Use wildcards in your search to help retrieve a greater range of results.


The asterisk matches zero or more non-whitespace characters.

Example: The search term citzen* may return pages containing the terms citizen, citizens, or citizenship.


The question mark wildcard character matches one non-whitespace character.

Example: The search term w?tch may return pages containing the terms watch, watches, or witch.

You can combine wildcards with another term, like foreign citizen*.

Narrowing Your Results

With so many collections, it is easy to get too many results. You can try applying facets, creating complex searches using Boolean operators in the keyword box, or using the Advanced Search form.

Applying Facets

Facets are lists of descriptive terms that show up in the collection descriptions. These can be subject terms or place and personal names. Facets appear in the left-hand column of search result pages under the Limit Your Search heading. You can restrict your results to one repository, or find the subject heading that precisely matches the topic your are interested in. You can also use facets to restrict your results to a particular date range, or even to see which collections have digital material online.

Boolean Searching

You have the option to use Boolean operators in your search to narrow down concepts that can be too broad with simple keyword searching. Boolean operators must be capitalized to work correctly -- shout them out!


Requires both terms be present.

Example: kelsey AND museum - will return pages that include the terms kelsey and museum. If a page contains one but not the other, it will not appear in your results.


Requires one or both terms be present.

Example: gallery OR museum - will return pages that include the terms gallery or military. If a page contains one but not the other, it will still appear in your results.


Requires one term be present and the other not be.

Example: kelsey NOT museum -- will return pages that include the term kelsey but not the term museum. kelsey -museum is the same as kelsey NOT museum.

These operators may be used in conjunction with each other. They can also be used with phrases in quotes (example: "small classes" NOT "large classes").

Advanced Searching

Clicking the Advanced Search link will bring up a form that allows your to target your search to a particular field. It will also let you search All Collections or only the collection you are currently viewing (this option is not active if you are not on a collection page). Searching for baker in a Name field will give fewer results than a keyword search for "baker" anywhere. Similarly, a search for Virginia in the Place field will eliminate results for people named "Virginia".