Collection Finder | American Memory Home Page

Collection Finder Help

The best way to search for items in American Memory will often be to first find the collections that interest you the most. Each collection has its own distinct character and subject matter, as well as narrative information that describes the content of the collection. Searching all the collections at once will likely cause certain items you may want to see to become "buried" in a long list. Visiting a collection's home page and reading the descriptive information about the collection will also give you more of an idea about what you can find in the collection.

The Collection Finder is designed to help you find the collections that interest you. Keep in mind, however, that the Collection Finder does not necessarily represent every single item in a given collection, but the collection as a whole. For instance, if only a few items in a collection pertain to the Broad Topic of "Agriculture", the collection may not appear under that topic. Clicking on a category is like saying "I would like to see a collection that is mainly about [this category]".

Here is a further explanation of the categories used in the Collection Finder:

The separate page of subjects is a list of LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) and TGM (Thesaurus of Graphic Materials) terms applied to the collections. Again, these subjects are used to describe the collection as a whole and not every item within the collections. Most individual collections offer a comprehensive item-level subject list from their home page. Also note that just because a subject has led you to a collection does not mean that it will make a good search term for finding items within that collection. Most likely, the subject terms are too general to be used as search terms for items within a collection.

Broad Topics
These topics were combined and derived from Dewey and LC Class terms used to describe the world of library items. They have been modified slightly to better fit the American Memory collections. Every collection can be found under at least one topic. Some collections may be found under more than one topic. A few collections, however, are so broad that they may fit under too many topics to be meaningfully represented here. For more narrow descriptive terms of the collections, view the list of subjects.

Original Format
These six categories describe the form of the item as it exists in the Library of Congress. Some multi-format collections may appear under more than one category. When searching a list of collections from these categories, keep in mind that items from other formats may appear in your search.

Note: Searching any of the Motion Picture Collections from a collection listing will result in a search of all the Motion Picture Collections. This is also the case for all Map Collections. In order to search these collections separately, you must go to the collection's home page by clicking on its title and choosing from the "Search" and "Browse" links found there.

User's Format
This is the manner in which the user perceives the collection items--by listening (Hear), by reading words (Read), or by viewing pictorial materials (View).

These date ranges reflect the dates in the collection titles. For example, the collection Baseball Cards, 1887-1914 can be found under two date ranges: 1850-1899 and 1900-1929. Collections without dates in their titles can be found in the date ranges in which most of their items fall. Collections not found in a particular date range may still have a few items from that time.

While most of the collections relate to the United States as a whole, some collections have a concentration of content in a particular region of the country. A few "International" collections contain material outside of the United States.

Library Division
The American Memory collections physically reside within many separate divisions in the Library of Congress. It is through the efforts of each of these divisions that we are able to provide their content on the Web. Some collections are brought together from a number of different divisions. In addition, collections from other institutions outside of the Library are also offered via the LC/Ameritech Competition.

Digital Format
Collection items may be provided in any number of digital formats and file types.

Other notes:

The Collection Finder was designed to scale to a much larger number of digital collections than are currently available. Certain options that are not currently shown (like more detailed Place listings or a Broad Topic of "Health and Medicine") may be offered in the future once there are enough collections to merit their use. The option to mix categories (like viewing a particular Place during a particular Time) will also become useful and desirable in the future. A free-text keyword search also will be available in time. Currently, with less than 100 collections, the great likelihood of returning zero hits using these search methods discourages their use.

Collection Finder | American Memory Home Page