Search Help

This guide contains information on how to search and browse the OHS Digital Collections:


Table of Contents:

  1. Basic searches

  2. Basic search results

  3. Advanced search

  4. Review your search results

  5. Search within a collection

  6. Use search filters

  7. Use filters to narrow basic search results

  8. Use filters to construct an advanced search

  9. Expert search

Basic searches

Basic searches can be conducted from the search bar at the top of the Digital Collections page. Basic searches query all fields in every collection.


basic search box


Enter your search term. You can use boolean operators and/or quotations to build your search:

  1. Use AND to combine search terms to narrow your search: e.g. search Portland AND “city hall” to return only descriptions that contain both search terms

  2. Use OR to to combine search terms to broaden your search: e.g. search Portland OR “city hall” to return descriptions that contain either search term

  3. Use AND NOT to exclude terms: e.g. search Portland AND NOT “city hall” to return descriptions that include Portland but do not contain the phrase “city hall“


Just like Google, you'll receive a set of automatically generated descriptions that match your search. You can select one of the matching descriptions or click on the "Search" button:


auto search results


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Basic search results

The search results screen will show all records that match your term. Keep in mind that the results will show descriptions of collections as well as individual files and items within a collection. The "level of description" is indicated in the search results.


search results page


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Advanced search

Advanced searches are the best way to search if you are:


  1. Trying to search by a collection's call number

  2. Getting too many search results in the basic search


You can go directly to the advanced search page. You can also navigate to this page by clicking on the "Advanced search" link in the basic search bar:


advanced search link


or by clicking "Advanced Search Options" at the top of any search results page:


advanced search link


The advanced search box allows you to target your search to specific fields as well as a set of search filters to focus your search even further:


advanced search box


Type your search term into the search box and use the drop down menu to select a field. The options include:

  • Any field - will search all of the fields below

  • Title - this will search titles at all levels of description (e.g., fonds, series, file, etc.)

  • Archival history - this will search descriptive histories about the creators of archival material (e.g., persons, families, corporate bodies)

  • Scope and Content - this will search free-text descriptions about the of materials in each collection

  • Extent and medium - this will search notes about the size and format of the material in each collection

  • Subject access points - this will search the list of subject headings associated with our collections. Subject headings can also be browsed alphabetically.

  • Name access points - this will search the list of names (people, families, and corporate bodies) associated with our collections, either as creators or subjects. Names can also be browsed alphabetically.

  • Place access points - this will search the list of place names associated with our collections. Places can also be browsed alphabetically

  • Genre Access Points - this will search the types of materials within a collection (e.g., interviews, maps, letters, etc.)

  • Identifier - this will search the unique identifier associated with a digital object or item.

  • Reference Code - this will search the unique identifier associated with a collection. Great for finding specific collections if you know the identifier (example Org. Lot 369)

  • Digital Object Text - this will search the indexed content of textual items (e.g. PDF contents with Optical Character Recognition (OCR))

  • Finding Aid Text - this will search the attached finding aid, if any. May not return results if a finding aid has not been attached.

  • Any field except finding aid text - this will search all fields except any attached finding aids.

advanced search box


Click on the "Search" button or hit "Enter" to start your search.


Your search results will appear under the Search button. Keep in mind that your results will include all levels of description (e.g., Collection, Series, Sub-Series, Item) unless you also use the level of description filter. Reference codes will be indicated in the search results when applicable:

search result


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Review your search results

Click on a search result to view more information about the material. The information is organized into various "areas of description," such as "Identity Elements" and "Content and Structure Elements"

The reference code (i.e., call number or item number) is found at the top of the screen and in the "Identity Elements area" Breadcrumb links above the record help show if the archival description is part of a larger collection of material.

The top menu can be used to browse within a collection. Even though they may not appear in your search results, other files in a collection will often contain information relevant to your research. Browsing through the files and viewing the "Series Descriptions" can help identify these materials.

view a search result


When you have a reference code for material you're interested in viewing in person, you can use that information to help make your request. View the Visit the Library page on our website for more information about requesting access to material.


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Search within a collection

Many of our collections contain hundreds or even thousands of individual descriptions of items within them. The collection can be browsed using the navigation menu, but it is also possible to search within the collection.


Navigate to the "top-level" of the collection. You'll see the "Quick Search" to the left of the description:


quick search box


Click in the "Quick search" bar and enter your search term. Click on the magnifying glass or press enter to run the search:


quick search box


Your search results will appear directly under the search box:


quick search results


Some of the titles may be cut off, but you can hover over the results and see the reference code, complete title, and level of description for the record:


quick search results


Click one one of the results to view the complete record:


view quick search results


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Use search filters

"Filtered searching" is a search technique that allows users to focus their searching by applying multiple filters during their search. Search filters can be helpful if, for example, you want to search for a keyword and limit your search to file titles (rather than titles of collections or series of records).


You can use filters to narrow basic search results. You can also use filters to construct an advanced search. To use filters to narrow basic search results, type a search term into the basic search bar:


search filters


The search results page shows the results in the center column. The left column includes a number of filters:


search filters


Check the search filters on the left side of the screen and determine if any filters will help you narrow your search results. Options include:


  • Part of: This will allow you to narrow your results to materials in a particular Collection.

  • Creator: This will allow you to narrow your results to materials created by a particular individual, family, or corporate body.

  • Name: This will allow you to narrow your results to materials associated with a particular individual, family, or corporate body. This filter includes creators and names associated as subject headings.

  • Place: This will allow you to narrow your results to materials associated with a particular geographic location.

  • Subject: This will allow you to narrow your results to materials associated with a particular subject.

  • Level of description: This will allow you to narrow your results to materials in a particular type of archival description (e.g., colletion-level description, series-level description, or item-level).

  • Media Type: This will allow you to narrow your results to materials of a particular type (e.g. Text, Still Image, Audio, etc.) This filter may not be present depending on the search or other filters selected.

  • Genre: This will allow you to narrow your results to particular types of materials (e.g. Letters, Interviews, Transcripts, etc.) This filter may not be present depending on the search or other filters selected.


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Use search filters to narrow basic search results

You can narrow your results using one of the filters in the left column.


search filer example


Scroll down to the "Place" filter:


search filter example


The filter allows you to use geographic locations to narrow your search results. The number on the right side indicates the number of search results that will be displayed if a place name is selected.


search filter example


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Use filters to construct an advanced search

You can use filters to construct an advanced search query. Choose the field you want to search, and enter your search term(s). Read the advanced search instructions for more information on constructing advanced searches.


Check the search filters on the left side of the screen and determine if any filters will help you narrow your search results. Options include:

  • Top-level descriptions - this will allow you to restrict your search to materials within a particular collection.

  • General material designation - this will allow you to narrow your search based on terms that describe the genre and form of materials in a collection (e.g., textual record, graphic material, cartographic material, etc.).

  • Media type - this will allow you to restrict your search to materials with a type of digital object (e.g., image, text, audio, etc.).

  • Digital object available - this will allow you restrict your search to materials that have been digitized.

  • Level of description - this will allow you to restrict your search to a particular level of description

  • Copyright status - this will allow you to restrict your search to materials with a given copyright status (Note: this filter is not currently functional).


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Expert search

You can utilize a number of other operators to improve your search results:


Symbol Use
Term enclosed in quotes must appear exactly as provided. Example: “towel” will find towel, but not towels.
+Term after “+” must be in the result. Example: +tea cricket requires that results that must contain the term tea in them, and may have the term cricket.
-Term after “-” must not be in the result. Example: -tea cricket requires that results that must not contain the term tea in them, and may have the term cricket.
?Single character wildcard. Example: p?per will find paper and piper, but not pepper.
*Multiple character wildcard. Example: galax* will find galaxy and galaxies, but not galactic.
~Fuzzy search. Will return results with words similar to the term. Example: fjord~ will find fjord, fjords, ford, form, fonds, etc.
&&Boolean operator. Can be used in place of AND. Will cause an error if combined with spelled-out operators. Example: Arthur && Ford AND Zaphod will fail; Arthur && Ford && Zaphod will succeed.
!Boolean operator. Can be used in place of NOT. Will cause an error if combined with spelled-out operators.
^Boost relevance. Multiplies the relevance of the preceding term by the number following the symbol, affecting the sorting of the search results. Example: paranoid android^5 gives results containing the term “android” 5x the relevance as results containing only the word “paranoid”, and will sort them closer to the start of the search results.
\Escapes the immediately following character, so that it is treated as text, rather than as a special character. For Example, to search for “(1+1):2”, use the following: \(1\+1\)\:2
( )Used to group search clauses. This can be useful if you want to control the precedence of boolean operators for a query, e.g. (coffee NOT tea) OR cream will return different results than coffee NOT (tea OR cream). Without grouping, by default in Elasticsearch, NOT takes precedence over AND, which takes precedence over OR.
[ ]Closed interval range search.Example: [“Frogstar” TO “Magrathea”] will return results in the alphabetic range between “Frogstar” and “Magrathea”, including”Frogstar” and “Magrathea”.
{ }Open interval range search.Example: {“Frogstar” TO “Magrathea”} will return all results in the alphabetic range between “Frogstar” and “Magrathea”, excluding”Frogstar” and “Magrathea”.


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