October 28, 2010 Library of Congress Unveils Redesigned Search System for Archival Finding Aids
Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Mary Lacy (202) 707-8799 | Jeff Flannery (202) 707-9929
Searching special collections at the Library of Congress has just gotten easier.
Thanks to a completely redesigned search system, at www.loc.gov/findingaids/, 1,100 finding aids will now smoothly 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.
“Navigating through the Library’s special collections is now much simpler,” said Jeff Flannery, head of the Manuscript Reading Room, adding that “researchers will be pleased to discover that the redesigned finding aids application is more intuitive and lets them delve deeply into material spread across the Library’s custodial divisions.”
Ann Della Porta, chief of the Integrated Library System Program Office, which helped develop the application, noted, “Using new XML-based technologies, we can offer our researchers the exciting new features they’ve come to expect from other websites.”
The 1,100 finding aids help researchers locate primary-source material of unparalleled interest—from Walt Whitman’s handwritten poems, Leonard Bernstein’s scrapbooks, Thomas Edison’s patents, Margaret Mead’s field notes, and George Washington’s diaries, to photographs and memoranda from the NAACP and documents collected about the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Clean, more powerful displays help visitors search and browse through the finding aids. Each finding aid progressively describes the parts of an 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.
Better keyword access 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.