Skip to content

Search Help

The Collections Database

As part of its centennial celebration, Historic New England inaugurates its first online system that merges information about its immense collections of museum artifacts, archival documents, books, and periodicals in a single resource. This unified database contains thousands of records and images. The project is ongoing, and the number of records and images continues to increase. The records vary in respect to the volume and status of information. Many records have in-depth data that staff members have verified. Some records consist of preliminary descriptions.

Learn more about the Collections Database and Collections Access Project.

Site Search

The search box in the upper right-hand corner of every page retrieves site content, events, merchandise, and records for collections objects that have images.

The site search does not include collections records that do not have images, and also excludes some less-detailed records.

To search for all items in the artifact, archival, and library collections, use the link to Collections Access under Collections, Archives and Exhibitions.

Search the Collections

Searching Basics

Enter one or more words, names, or numbers in the search field. The system looks for the search word and any other words that have the same root.

Example: if the word paint is entered in the search box, the results include painter, painting, paintings, and paints.

When two or more words are entered in a search field, the system automatically retrieves results with both words.

Enclose words to be searched as a phrase in quotation marks, such as "tea service."

Limiting Searches

To limit search results to records with images, check the show only records with images box that appears on the results display page.

Search Results

When the Search the Collections box is used, some less-detailed records are not found. In order to get all records that match a search, use the More Search Options/Expanded Search and check the show detailed results box.

Browse by Category

Browse by Category offers many opportunities to delve into the artifact, archival, and library collections of Historic New England. Each of the eleven general categories is subdivided into a group of more specific headings. Choosing one of these groupings shows a set of records that meet one or more of the characteristics of that category.

Some results show objects from more than one of the collection types.

Example: in the Art category, the Paintings sub-category includes framed oil paintings in the artifact collections and watercolor works in the archival collections.

For some categories, the records present a combination of kinds of materials.

Example: in the Photography category, the Home Life sub-category contains records for various types of photographs, such as photographic prints and stereo views.

More Search Options / Expanded Search

This form offers more focused searching. Enter words or names in specific search fields, and only records with those terms in those particular fields are retrieved. For example, a search for chair in the title returns only records with that word in that field, not in any other ones.

Enter terms in only one field or multiple fields at the same time. When terms are entered in several fields, results with all search terms present in them are displayed.

Enclose words to be searched as a phrase in quotation marks, such as "old state house."

Show detailed results

Normal collections searches do not include less detailed records, such as those for folders in the archival collection or museum artifacts with no descriptive information. Checking the show detailed results checkbox will include all of these records in the search results.


This field includes every word and number in all parts of the record. This is the most comprehensive search option.

Object Name / Title

For materials in the artifact collections, the title is the specific kind of item described on the record, such as brooch, chair, dress, mug, shoe, or table. Some types of items, such as paintings and prints, have titles that the creator gives to it.

For the archival and library collections, the title is the name of an item that its creator, such as an author, architect, or artist, gives to it. When an item does not have a title, a cataloguer creates one for it.

Enter all words or some of the words in a title.

Examples: dresses, An Emblem of America, Camera's Coast: Historic Images of Ship and Shore in New England.

Descriptive Terms

This field searches the terms used to describe the topics of the item.

Examples: seating, skirts, photographs, exterior views.

Maker / Author

For all collections, this field includes the names of those individuals or organizations that created or were responsible for the creation of the work, such as architects, artists, authors, clothes designers, craftspeople, furniture makers, jewelry makers, photographers and photographic studios, and sculptors.

For individuals, search for last name and first name or last name only. For organizations, search for the whole name or several words or only one word of the name.

Example: entering the name Green retrieves a dinner plate manufactured by Thomas Green, a miniature portrait painted by Edward Greene Malbone, and an article in the journal Old-Time New England by William Green Roelker.

Example: a search for the word wallpaper finds the Bailet Wallpaper Co. Gledhill Wallpaper Company, and United Wallpapers, Inc., and other organizations with "wallpaper" in their names.

Earliest Year and Latest Year

For a range of dates, enter the first date in the Earliest Year field and the closing date in the Latest Year field.

Example: Earliest year: 1860 and Latest year: 1890 (finds things made between 1860 and 1890).

Example: Latest year: 1820 (finds things made before 1820).

For a specific year, enter the same date in both fields.

When precise dates of production or publication are not known, the records may contain a range of dates. The search system looks at every year within date ranges. If a specific year is entered, the results include items with a date range that includes the specific year.

Example: Earliest year: 1930 and Latest year: 1930 finds things made in 1930, as well as a teapot made between 1920 and 1940.

Place Name

This field includes the names of cities, towns, neighborhoods, states, countries, buildings, mountains, rivers, and other kinds of localities and topographical entities.

Examples: Boston, Bellows Falls, Charles River, Old State House.

Person / Organization Name

This field contains the names of individuals, companies, organizations, and government agencies that have a connection to works but are not the creators of works.

Examples: John Fitzgerald Kennedy, A.A. Vantine.

Object Type / Material / Process

For the archival collections, the object type is the specific kind of item described on the record.

For materials in the artifact collections, material represents the substances from which an object is produced, and process represents the techniques and methods used to create the object.

Examples: architectural drawings, postcards, brass, glass, quilting.

Object ID / Accession Number

Every record has a GUSN (Global Unique Serial Number) that uniquely identifies it. Some objects also have an accession number that is assigned to it when it is acquired. This field searches both types of numbers.

Examples: 1991.1292, 175517.

Search Help