The College Archives maintains an up to date database of its holdings, available online to researchers. Users are free to browse and search the database to discover materials relevant to their research. Some items in the database have digitized or born-digital files available for display online, however most of the records in the database are not available online. If you wish to view an item that is not available online, please contact us to schedule a visit to the Archives or request a scan.

Records in the database are arranged hierarchically into collections, which are typically broken down into subdivisions such as series, boxes, or folders. These types of groupings are known as containers, to distinguish them from items such as an individual document or photograph stored within a container. Each record in the database (whether it is a container or an item) describes the content and structure of the corresponding item or group of items. Each record also contains links to the other records above it and below it in the hierarchy, so you can always see how a particular record fits in with the materials around it.

Some collections are described in more granular detail than others, meaning some collections will have records describing individual folders and items, but others will not. Some collections are restricted, meaning their contents are not publicly described or available for research.

Click the topics below to read more about navigating the repository.

Collections and categories

Records created by a particular office or individual on campus are arranged into collections named after the creator. The main exceptions to this rule are photographs and audiovisual recordings, which are separated into their own format-specific collections. Within any given collection, materials may be further divided according to their dates, document types, and/or topics to make it easier to research a particular period, subject, or activity.

The Archives’ collections are sorted into eight categories: College Records – Office and Committee Files; Student Organization Collections; Manuscript Collections and Personal Papers; Topical/Subject Based Collections; Photographs; Publications; Recordings; and Objects and Artifacts.

From the front page of the database, click one of these categories to view all the collections within that category.

A list of collection categories displayed on the database's main page

From the front page, you can also click on the “Collections” button on the gold menu bar to see a full list of collections in all categories.

A screenshot of the gold menu bar, with options reading "Home", "Collections", "Digital Items", "Accessions", "Advanced Search", "Contact", and "Guide". A red box is drawn around "Collections"

Searching the database

Basic Search

The search box on the right side of the gold menu bar can be used to perform a Basic Search of the database. A Basic Search looks through all of the descriptive metadata found in the database for text matching the search terms. This metadata has been entered by the college’s archivists, and includes things like titles, dates, and creators.

Global menu bar with search bar on the right side. "Goodsell Observatory" has been entered as an example search term

When you first perform a basic search, three types of results will be shown: Collections, Accessions, and Digital Items. “Collections” results include all the records that have been arranged and described by the college’s archivists, from collections to individual items. “Accessions” are records of materials the Archives has received but which have not yet been processed. “Digital Items” results are limited to records of individual items that also have digital media associated with them.

Click any of the results to jump straight to that record. To view all results of a given type, click the type label or the “Full Results” button on the right side of the screen. This will load a full list of results and provide additional filter options.

Search results for "Goodsell Observatory", with results divided into Collections, Accessions, and Digital Items

Advanced Search

While the Basic Search is a great entry point to searching the database, you can use the Advanced Search to get more targeted results. Click the Advanced Search button in the gold menu bar to access the Advanced Search screen.

The Advanced Search screen has several options that can be used in combination with one another to find very specific results. To perform an Advanced Search, enter information in one or more fields or drop-down menus and click Search. Click Reset to clear all search fields and start over.

Advanced search screen, with search boxes for Keyword (including document text), Title, Classification, Material Type, Type, and Date Range. Two buttons at the bottom read "Reset" and "Search"

Unlike the Basic Search, which only looks for matching text within descriptive metadata entered by the college’s archivists, the Advanced Search’s Keyword search field also looks for matching text within archival documents themselves. This full-text search includes certain scanned textual materials, such as issues of The Carletonian or Noon News Bulletin, as well as born-digital text documents like Carleton Oral History Program transcripts. Note that because full-text searches are more encompassing than Basic Searches, they will generally return more results and may need to be filtered to produce useful results.

The Title search field will look for matching text in records’ titles alone, rather than in all descriptive fields. Use this field if you know the title (or part of the title) of the item you wish to find.

The Classification, Material Type, and Type drop-down menus allow you to search for only certain kinds of records:

  • Classification refers to the category that each collection in the Archives has been assigned. Use this if you know the category of results you would like to see in your results.
  • Material Type refers to the specific physical carrier or format of an item, such as 78 rpm record, blueprint, or DVD. Use this if you know the specific media format of the item you would like to find.
  • Type refers to a record’s place within a collection hierarchy. Records can pertain to entire collections, or series, sub-series, boxes/drawers, folders, groups, or items within those collections. Use this to limit your search results to records of individual items, for example, or entire collections.

The Date Range field allows you to limit your results to a specific year or range of years.

When you have entered all the information you would like to include in your search, hit the Search button to jump to the results.

Filtering and sorting results

Filter options

On any “Full Results” page, the filters on the left side of the screen provide several different ways of refining a long list of search results to make them more specific to your research interests. Filters are generated using the metadata entered by the college’s archivists for each record, and include the following types:

A screenshot of the filter panel, allowing users to filter by collection, classification, decade, entity, media class, and type
  • Collection refers to the archival collection to which each record in the database belongs. If there are records from many collections in your search results, click the “and more” link to open the full list in a new panel.
  • Classification refers to the category to which the record’s collection belongs.
  • Decade allows you to filter records chronologically by ten-year span. The remaining results will include any records whose inclusive dates include any year in that period, so a collection spanning “1939-1945” will appear in the results when either a “1930s” or “1940s” filter is applied.
  • Year appears as a filter option anytime a decade filter has been applied, and allows you to show results from a single year. The remaining results will include any records whose inclusive dates include that year, so the same “1939-1945” collection will appear in the results with any filters from 1939 to 1945 applied.
  • Entity refers to people or organizations who are named as creators, contributors, or subjects in records.
  • Media Class allows you to filter by different categories of digital file associated with an item record.
  • Type refers each place in a collection hierarchy that a record can occupy. Use this to limit your search results to records of individual items, for example, or entire collections.

Click on a filter type on the left side of the page to expand the list of available values. Filter options are populated dynamically, so if your initial search only includes results from the 1930s and 1940s, the Decade filter drop-down will not have “1950s” as an option. The number of matching records for any filter value is shown in parentheses.

Click one or more filter values within a filter type and click “Apply” to add the selected filters.

A screenshot of the filter panel, showing filter options available following a search for "Goodsell Observatory". "1900s", "1910s", and "1920s" filters are selected, with a plus icon next to each. An "Apply" button appears at the bottom of the list of decades

When the updated search results load, the filters will be shown at the top of the panel, below your original search term. Click on any item in this list to remove that particular filter or search term.

You can combine several types of filters to get very specific results, for example limiting a long list of search results to folders of a particular category and from a particular decade. Note that values from each filter type (for example, Decade and Category) must be selected and applied one at a time.

Searching within results

Use the “Search within…” box at the very top of the filter panel to search the records in the list for an additional term. Note that this searches records’ metadata like the Basic Search, not full document text like the Advanced Search.

A screenshot of the search panel, with "Winter" entered in the "Search within" box above the filters that have already been applied

Sorting results

Click the gear icon at the top of the search results to change how the lists are sorted. You can sort by Relevance, Date, Identifier, and Name. Choose Ascending or Descending to switch between A-Z and Z-A sorting, or between Oldest-Newest and Newest-Oldest sorting. The current sorting methods will be italicized.

Navigating collections

From a list of search results, clicking on a specific record will load a new page showing the record’s title and date, its place in the collection hierarchy and its complete metadata. If the search term that brought you to the record appears in any of these sections, the term will be highlighted in yellow.

A screenshot of a folder's record, showing the folder title and date at the top, followed by a list of parent containers in the collection, then a full list of metadata fields and values. The example search term, "Goodsell Observatory", is highlighted in the "scope and content" field of the metadata

Each element in the collection hierarchy (beginning with “Part of”) represents one of the current record’s parent containers, for example an item’s parent folder, a folder’s parent series, or a series’ parent collection. Click on any of these parent containers to jump to that parent container’s page.

If you have selected a record of an individual item (e.g. a photo or recording) with digital media associated, the media viewer will load to the left of the metadata.

A screenshot of an item record with a scanned photo of Goodsell Observatory to the left and the item's metadata to the right

If you have selected a record of a container (i.e. a collection, series, sub-series, box, or folder, but not an individual item) with other records within it, the collection browser will load below the metadata. Use the collection browser to preview the titles, dates, and thumbnails of the containers or items arranged within the current record. You can also use the search box at the top-right to search everything arranged within the current record.

When the collection browser first loads, it will list the records nested immediately below the current record. If any of these “child” records are containers with child records of their own (for example, folders containing individual items), the browser will have two sections. The left side of the browser will list the current container’s child records, and clicking on one of these will load that container’s records to the right. This allows you to quickly browse the contents of a collection or series without needing to load a new page for each child record you want to preview.

Screenshot of the collections browser, showing a list of folders on the left side. One of these folders is selected and highlighted, and a list of its items with titles and thumbnails is shown to the right.

If a record in the collection browser does not have any child records, clicking on it will load that record in a new page. You can always load a record’s page directly by clicking on the external link icon, a box with an arrow pointing out, which appears to the right of the title in the collection browser. Use this to save the URLs of items or containers you want to come back to later.

a screenshot of a folder title containing an external link icon after the title

Click “Show full collection hierarchy” at the top-left of the collection browser to close the collection browser and load the full hierarchical content of the current record in a single view.

A screenshot of a full collection view for a sub-series. The sub-series title is listed at the top, followed the name of each folder. Individual items within each folder are listed alongside their thumbnails. Unlike the collection browser, this view shows all items within the sub-series at the same time

If you have reached a record’s page from a list of search results, you can click the “Prev” and “Next” buttons at the top left and top right of the page to jump directly to the other items in those search results. The “Back” button will return to the full list of search results.

A screenshot of the top of a record page, with "prev" and "back" buttons to the left of the title and a "next" button to the right.

Digital media in the database

To limit search results to only those items in the database that have digitized or born-digital media associated with them, click the “Digital Items” results in the initial search results page. These search results can be filtered just like Collections results.

Note that records for individual items in the database can have multiple files associated with them. Items that have multiple files are denoted by an icon showing two pages at the top right of the thumbnail.

A screenshot of digital items from a search for "Goodsell Observatory". A few items' thumbnails have an icon in the top-right corner, indicating that they have multiple files

When viewing an item with multiple files, click a thumbnail below the viewer or use the left and right arrows to switch between the displayed image.

A screenshot of an item record with multiple images associated. The first image appears in the large viewer at the top, with thumbnails of other images associated with the items arranged in a grid below. Left and Right arrows appear below the large image for navigation

Scans available online in the database are compressed as JPEGs in order to reduce storage costs. To obtain higher resolution JPEGs or uncompressed TIFFs of an item in the repository, please contact us.

Glossary of archival terminology

Archivists use a lot of specific technical terms when describing their work, and the precise meaning of these words may not always be immediately clear. The following glossary can help you make sense of this guide and the database.

  • Archives: An institution that preserves and provides access to historical material related to a particular institution or topic. The College Archives preserves and provides access to historical materials created by and related to Carleton College.
  • Arrangement: The logical organization of collections into series, sub-series, boxes, and folders of items to facilitate research. Archivists often attempt to preserve the original order and structure of the materials as they have been created and provided to the archives.
  • Born-digital: Any digital file that has been created using a computer, for example a Word document, as opposed to a document that was created physically and then digitized.
  • Collection: A set of documents, photos, or other materials that are related in some way and grouped together. The materials in a collection are usually grouped together because they have been created by the same office or individual, though in some cases materials are separated into collections according to their format. Collections can be made up of physical or digital items, and may be sub-divided into separate series and containers.
  • Container: A set of materials within a collection that are physically housed together, typically a box or folder.
  • Digitized: Any digital file that has been created physically, such as an office document created using a typewriter, and then scanned, as opposed to a born-digital file that has only ever existed in electronic form.
  • Full-text search: Any search tool that looks for text matches within the contents of born-digital and digitized files themselves, rather than searching for text matches in records’ descriptive metadata alone. Full-text search is often limited by the small number of digital documents available online for searching and imperfect scans which cause text to be “misread” by the system. Audio and video files are not searchable, but if they have transcripts associated with them, those transcripts can be searched.
  • Item: An individual document, photograph, or other object found in a collection. Items can be physical or digital.
  • Metadata: Descriptive information about an item or set of items, which often includes its title, date, and creators. Metadata can also include structural and administrative information, such as an item’s place within a collection hierarchy and access restrictions.
  • Record: A descriptive entry representing a collection, container, or item in the archives that allows it to be found via searching and browsing. This description typically includes the title, date, and creator, but may also contain the names of people depicted or discussed in a document, or the titles of related collections. These records are manually created by archivists.
  • Series: The highest unit of arrangement within a collection. A series may itself be arranged into sub-series, boxes, or folders. Series may divide collection materials chronologically, by subject, or by material type.

About the database

The College Archives database was developed between 2021 and 2023, and is powered by CollectiveAccess. A previous version of the database was built using Archon and was retired in 2022.