Searching Archival Collection Guides (Archives and Special Collections)

Help page answering common questions on navigating ArchivesSpace, the home for collection guides ("finding aids") for University of Minnesota Libraries Archives and Special Collections.

How do I search for materials in Archives Collection Guides?



  • Begin a basic search by entering your search terms in the search bar. You may limit the search by searchable fields, record type, and date. The searchable fields are:
  • Keyword: Searches the entire text of the finding aid.
  • Title: Searches titles of the materials described, including collection records and series and files within collections. If you know the precise title of the thing you’re looking for, searching by title can be very helpful.
  • Creator: Searches names of the persons, families, and organizations who created the collections.
  • Subject: Searches by subject headings assigned to materials by archivists and librarians, e.g. United States history.
  • Notes: Searches the text found within a note, which are detailed descriptions found within collections.
  • Identifier: Searches by identifier, which is a unique collections number by which materials are tracked and requested.
  • Record types allow you to customize the type of records you want a search to return:
  • Limit to collections will only return records for collections, rather than people, subjects, series, and files.
  • You may select a date span to limit the search results chronologically. Searching by date is approximate, and results may fall outside the date span you enter.
  • You may construct a more complex search by selecting the + icon and adding additional search parameters.

What should I know about crafting my searches?

  • Searches are not case sensitive.
  • You may search for phrases by including quotation marks (e.g. “Girl Scouts”)
  • By default, searches with three or fewer search terms return results containing all of the search terms. Searches with four or more search terms return results containing most of the search terms. You may add OR and NOT to change this behavior (e.g. Stiles OR Morse or art NOT British).
  • You may add a tilde (~) to search for search terms within a specified number of words of one another (e.g. “maps Asia”~5 will return results where the term maps occurs within 5 words of the term Asia).
  • “Wildcard” symbols ? and * help return a greater number of relevant results by searching for variant spellings and forms of search terms simultaneously.
  • ? replaces a single letter in a search term (e.g. searching wom?n will return both women and woman, and searching archiv? will return both archive and archivy)
  • * replaces any number of letters at the end of a search term (e.g. searching mission* will return mission, missions, missionary, and missionaries)
  • ? and * may not be used as the first character of a word.
  • To use a wildcard in combination with another search term (e.g. wom?n suffrage), use the + icon to create another row and enter each search term in a separate row.

How can I filter my search results?


  • Once you’ve done a search and are on the search results page, you can use the filter pane on the right side of the page to further limit and customize search results.
  • You may use the filter pane to filter by collecting area, record type, subject, and name.
  • You may also use the search bar at the top of the filter pane on the right to create additional searches within the search results.

How do I read the page for a collection or an item?

Collection pages will appear like this --


Individual folders, items, or series pages within a collection will appear like this --


How do I navigate around the site?

  • To begin a search, use the search bar on the home page. You can also click the magnifying glass icon on the top banner to begin a search.
  • To learn more about each University of Minnesota Libraries Archives and Special Collections collecting areas, including contact details, click on Collecting Areas on the top banner.
  • To see a full alphabetical list of collections, click Collections on the top banner. 
  • To see a full alphabetical list of subjects, click Subjects on the top banner.
  • To see a full alphabetical list of names, click Names on the top banner.
  • You can return to the home page at any time by clicking on the Home link in the top banner.

Which collecting areas are included in the Archival Collection Guides?

University of Minnesota Libraries Archival Collection Guides  includes finding aids from 14 distinct departments, referred to as “collecting areas,” at the University of Minnesota Libraries:


Each collecting area has its own staff and policies for providing access to its collections. Please consult the collecting area with questions about using the materials.

How do I know which Collecting Area holds a collection?

When you’ve done a search and are on the search results page, the “found in” breadcrumb trail at the bottom of each search result indicates which collecting area holds the collection.

When you’re viewing a record, the breadcrumb trail at the top of the page indicates which collecting area holds the collection.



How do I request materials?

To request materials from a collection you will need to determine which collecting area the materials are a part of. At the bottom of each collection guide you will see a section that says Collecting Area Details which will list the contact phone number or email of the collecting area. 



To expedite the request include the name of the collection and the Identifier. If you are interested in multiple boxes from a collection, list the box numbers as well.


Do the Archival Collection Guides include all archival materials at the University of Minnesota?

Archival Collection Guides does not include all archival materials at the University of Minnesota. Materials not included here are:

  • Most unprocessed collections, meaning collections that have recently come to the University that have not yet been inventoried. Contact an individual collecting unit that the materials may reside in to learn more.
  • Materials found at the Andersen Horticulture Library and the Wangensteen Library of Biology and Medicine. Contact these libraries individually to learn more.


Last Updated: Nov 17, 2020 2:41 PM