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Physical and Digital Collections

ArchiveSearch: Search

How to Search

From the ArchiveSearch home page enter a search term, or terms into the search box (or click the magnifying glass icon on the top line to start a new search).

Use the pull down options to the right of the search box to limit your search to collections (non-digital materials) or digital materials.

ArchiveSearch search screen

Image showing search screen on ArchiveSearch. Please contact archivesearch@lib.cam.ac.uk for accessibility support.

Search box tips

  • If you add more than one term (e.g. ‘darwin experiment’) ArchiveSearch will return results containing either term, but will display records containing both terms close together first. Records containing one of the two terms will be given a lower relevance ranking.
  • To find records containing more than one term, either use + in front of each term, or ‘and’ to combine multiple terms. Searches for ‘+darwin+experiment’ or ‘darwin and experiment’ will only find records containing both terms. 
  • To find a precise phrase, use inverted commas “The history of Newfoundland and Labrador”
  • Wildcard searching: add * at the end of the term. A search for ‘suffrage*’ will retrieve records containing suffragist, suffrage, suffragan etc.
  • Keywords can be entered with or without diacritic characters: a search for “facade” or a search for “façade” will return the same results.

Adding search parameters

Searching can be enhanced in several ways.

  • Date range searching – by limiting the search to a specific year or years. 
  • Adding additional search operators: click on the + symbol to the right of the search box to add another row or rows to the search.
  • Add additional terms and choose the pull down box to the left of the search box to specify AND OR and NOT operators.

ArchiveSearch advanced search screen

Image showing advanced searching on ArchiveSearch. Please contact archivesearch@lib.cam.ac.uk for accessibility support.

Searching for reference codes

If you know the reference code (sometimes called the shelfmark or classmark) of the material you’re interested in, you can search for it using a reference code search. Use the pull-down to specify Reference Code to restrict a search to the reference code field.

There is a great deal of variety in the format of reference codes on ArchiveSearch. Spaces, full stops, forward slashes and other punctuation marks may be used to separate the different elements of a reference code (e.g. GBR/0012/MS Add.5987 or GBR/0014/AHKY). It can be hard to know how to search for an exact match for a reference code.

If you know one part of a reference code, you can try a wildcard search by adding an asterisk. A search for KGM* will find reference codes including all the following variants:-

  • GBR/3296/Maps/Maps.KGM
  • GBR/3296/Maps/CCSA.KGM
  • GBR/3296/Maps/Maps.KGM 19.1 : 180/13
  • GBR/3296/Maps/Maps.KGM 19.1 : 180/14

A search for AHKY* will find records with reference codes including all the following variants:-

  • GBR/0014/AHKY
  • GBR/0014/AHKY 1/2/11
  • GBR/0014/AHKY 1/2/12
  • GBR/0014/AHKY 1/2/14

If you know a string of characters that form part a reference code, you can use double inverted commas round the element of the reference code you wish to search for.

  • A reference code search for “MS DAR” will find GBR/0012/MS DAR.
  • A reference code search for “"Add.5987" will find GBR/0012/MS Add.5987

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