Library of Congress Unveils Search System for Archival Finding Aids

The Library of Congress recently unveiled a completely redesigned special collections search system to help researchers locate primary-source materials. The new search engine can be found at

1,100 finding aids will now lead remote and onsite researchers to more than 32 million archival items in the Manuscript, Music, American Folklife, Prints and Photographs, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound, and other Library of Congress research centers.

Clean, more powerful displays help visitors search and browse through the finding aids. Each finding aid progressively describes the parts of an

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individual collection, summarizes the overall scope of the material, conveys details about the individuals and organizations involved, and notes the conditions under which the collection may be accessed or copied. Links are provided from the finding aids to related digitized content when available.

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to all Library finding aids as well as to the contents of individual documents lets users see their search results “in context.” Users can start a search on almost any page, making search refinement easy and eliminating the need to click back to a search page to conduct a new search.

Moving between archival finding aids and the Library’s collections in the Library of Congress Online Catalog is also now possible through integrated browse lists of subjects, names, titles and dates. Users can also follow links directly to individual collection records.

For researchers traveling long distances to use unique Library resources, alerts prominently identify when content is stored offsite and whether access restrictions apply. Hidden metatags on finding-aid displays let users add finding aids to their reference citation databases, and PDF versions support downloading and printing of these often long and complex documents.

As XML documents, Library of Congress finding aids are encoded using the international Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard, which is jointly maintained by the Library of Congress and the Society of American Archivists. The new finding aid search application wraps the EAD XML documents into METS objects, then stores, indexes, and displays them from a native XML data store platform using a search language called XQuery.