Stumped by Searching? Ohio Memory Search Help Now Online!

A student searches for a book in the stacks at William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library on the campus of The Ohio State University, ca. 1940. Via Ohio Memory.

If you’ve followed along with us on the Ohio Memory blog in 2020, you know we’ve had a busy year. We started off celebrating the project’s 20th anniversary, and were excited to share with our readers and users looks back at Ohio Memory’s history, perspectives from past staff and current contributors, and some peeks behind the scenes at how we operate today.

Tips for using the advanced search on Ohio Memory, via the Help page.

Over the course of this year and its many challenges, the digital collections on Ohio Memory, and the stories they tell, have been explored like never before. According to our use statistics, we had over 427,000 visitors to the site, and almost three quarters of a million page views! Our visitor total nearly doubled from 2019 (243,000), telling us that many folks found our collections for the first time. One of the ways we decided to meet this increased use was to develop a series of resources to better help our audience navigate through the huge amount of content available online. All of these are now available at the Help page, anchored on the right of the Ohio Memory menu bar wherever on the site you may be.

Back in October, we shared a post talking about how to successfully navigate a newspaper search–a bit of a unique challenge, given the full-text nature of the format and the many ways you can adjust and combine your search terms. This same general type of guidance can be found on the page above, including brief video tutorials teaching you how to use our basic and advanced search options, how to browse by different categories, and all the different ways you can interact with an item record once you’ve found a result of interest to you.

If you don’t have time to watch a video, PDFs are available to explain the different elements and options on the advanced search, on your search results page, and on an item record. We’ve also answered a few common questions, and provided a list of terms that are helpful to know, to better interact with a digital collection like Ohio Memory. Here are just a few helpful tips that might improve your searching in our collections.

This (partially finished) snowman–standing next to PFC Michael Petrucci of Youngstown, on duty in Korea in 1953– will come back as a result in a search for “snow*.” Via Ohio Memory.
  • Metadata (structured information that helps describe, explain, locate or interact with a digital record) is how searching is made possible. Knowing the kinds of information included in a record, and the ways it’s formatted, can improve your technique.
  • Clicking on any hyperlinked (blue) term in the descriptive information below an image will take you to other records in the same collection that feature that term.
  • From the Ohio Memory homepage, you can limit your search to different format types, or exclude full-text resources to ignore places your term appears in the text of newspapers and published books.
  • Using the advanced search, you can combine search terms in different ways. Using and looks for results where all your terms appear in the record, while using or looks for one or more of your terms to be present.
  • Want to narrow things down? Limit by format, time period or collection using the advanced search, or click on the facets along the left-hand side of a results page to see a smaller sub-set of your initial search results that meet certain criteria.
  • Try alternate spellings of a term or name if you aren’t getting the results you expect. You can use an asterisk (*) to stand in as a wildcard for any character or string of characters. Searching for snow* will bring back results with terms like snow, snowy, snowing, snowstorm or snowball. Searching for mat*hews will bring back results for both Mathews and Matthews.

Questions about any of the search strategies offered through these resources, or about how you can improve your methods? Reach out to us anytime at [email protected]! We hope that you can explore the Help page for an even better Ohio Memory experience, and that you continue to discover even more of the remarkable stories from Ohio’s past in the new year to come!

Thank you to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!

Ohio Memory is celebrating 20 years! Visit our blog all year long to learn more about our program, partners and collections.


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