MHS Collections Online : Search Tips

  • A search in Collections Online may bring results from many different collections, including: photographs, art, posters, 3D objects, archaeology, maps, moving images, and oral histories, as well as a small selection of manuscripts and State Archives records.
  • Some indexes to State Archives records, including the World War I Bonus Records with 110,000 names, are in Collections Online, but many more can be found in the Library Catalog.
  • Collections Online does NOT search the online Library Catalog.
  • Collections Online does NOT search the MHS website.
  • Collections Online also does NOT search the entirety of the MHS Collections. A large number of items, artifacts, and collections do not yet have online records and therefore cannot be searched using this tool.
  • For more detailed information about what is and is not included in the Collections Online Search, please see About Collections Online.

Enter one or more terms to begin exploring the Minnesota Historical Society collections. Search terms can be:

  • keywords
  • names of individuals or companies
  • creators (artists, photographers, manufacturers, etc.)
  • places (county, city, or even street address)
  • types of items (map, tintype, quilt, painting, pottery, etc.)
  • identification numbers
  • Subject terms
  • Searches are not case specific. Minnesota and minnesota are treated the same.
  • Entering more than one word retrieves records that include ALL of the words entered. The words do not need to be next to each other and they do not need to be in the order specified. Washburn Mill explosion will return the same results as explosion Washburn Mill.
  • Searches do not include Boolean search capability. This means that AND, OR, and NOT are treated like regular search words.
  • Try variant spellings and abbreviations. Due to inconsistencies in cataloging and descriptions, some records may spell out the word Avenue while others use Ave. St. may lead to records for Street or Saint.
  • Try plural and singular forms of terms. For example, searching for airplane will give a different set of results than searching for airplanes.
  • If you find records that are highly relevant to your search needs and would like to see more similar items, try a search using some of the terms found in the description of the most relevant results. For example, if you are interested in finding a photograph of a horse-drawn vehicle, you may want to use the terms carriage, carriages, coach, or buggy.
  • If a search yields no results, try entering fewer words.
  • To search for an exact phrase, use quotation marks ("Civil War").
  • Exact phrase searching limits your search to multiple terms in the precise order specified. For example, searching for "University of Minnesota" will only find results that include those three words, side by side and in that order.
  • Exact phrase searching can limit your search more than you would like. If you do not find what you are looking for, consider expanding your search by leaving the quotation marks out. For example, when you enter the term "Hubert Humphrey" you will not find results with Hubert H. Humphrey, Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr., or Hubert Horatio Humphrey.
Search Terms Search Results
Dakota County Tribune Finds results where the term Dakota, the term County, and the term Tribune are present. There is an implicit AND between the words entered. The words do not need to be next to each other and they do not need to be in the order specified.
"Dakota County Tribune" Finds results containing the exact phrase Dakota County Tribune.
  • Search results are returned in a list that is sorted by relevance.
  • The results list cannot be resorted in any other fashion (date, title, name, etc.).

Exploration of the collections is done through a filtered search, also called faceted navigation or faceted browsing, which is a technique that helps to narrow the search results using filters.

  • To narrow a search, use the filters on the left side to specify the type of record, place, name, subject, collection, or year.
  • To limit the results by year, use the sliding bar under year range or select a specific year under the year category.
  • Multiple filters can be used to further narrow your results list. If multiple filters are used, they are implemented in the order they are selected and all selected filters are used simultaneously.
  • To stop using a specific filter on your results list, click the X next to it.

The Collections Online Search automatically performs several actions to help you find more results that may be applicable to your search, including:

  • Stemming: The search engine looks for the root of the word--fish, for example--and then finds other words that match that same root (fish, fishery, fisherman, fishes, fishing, etc.)
  • Synonyms: The search engine knows a limited number of synonyms or alternate spellings for terms that are common in our collections.
  • Automatic Search Expansions cannot be turned off.
  • Many more photographs, films and videos, oral histories, manuscripts, and State Archives records can be found in the Library Catalog.
  • Many images and documents may be part of larger collections. About 10% of the manuscript, State Archives, and sound & visual collections have online finding aids. They can be searched on the Finding Aids Page.
  • For family history research or any search related to a specific person, try searching in our People Finder. This tool searches for names on Minnesota birth and death records, state census records, and veterans grave registrations, as well as in online finding aids, Collections Online - which includes over 100, 000 World War I Bonus Records - and WOTR comments left by other users on records.