Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Collections Search Center Tutorial

The Collections Search Center provides easy "one-stop searching" of (currently) more than 6.4 million of the Smithsonian's museum, archives, library and research holdings and collections.  The American Historical Association (AHA) says, "It’s no wonder it was the winner of the “Best Re-Purposing of Descriptive Data” category in the ArchivesNext Best Archives on the Web awards contest this past summer."

With so much well earned attention, many are asking how they can quickly learn to surf through the interconnected search engine.  After providing a few training sessions to my own curatorial staff at Freer|Sackler, I decided to try my hand at creating an introductory tutorial to get everyone started on utilizing the Collections Search Center and the wealth of knowledge sharing it has to offer:

*Please note this video was made and provided in 1080p, make sure your adjust your youtube settings (bottom right hand corner, usually set at 360p) to 1080p for best viewing results.

The Technology (as taken from the Collections Search Center About page)

In implementing this Collections Search Center, the Smithsonian reviewed a number of commercial and open-source products. The functional requirements included the support of faceted metadata searching, Boolean / simple search logic, synonym/stemming matching, proximity matching, customizable relevance ranking, and highlighting display capability. This system will need to support a wide range of documents and objects from libraries, archives, and museums (LAMs). In the end, the Smithsonian selected the open-source Lucene/Solr indexing software for the project.

The Lucene/Solr search engine has offered the Smithsonian a flexible and scalable indexing environment to support the fast growing online collections served in the new search center. The Smithsonian has enhanced the online display using Java and css style sheets. The Smithsonian developed a common Index Metadata Model to handle the large variety of data formats from library, archives and museum systems with subject expertise from arts to space science. MARC records and other data formats from more than 40 data sources and databases were extracted and mapped into the common data format and ingested into the Lucene/Solr index. Future data ingests are planned from other data sources with different formats.

The Smithsonian Collections Search Center is mobile-aware. Users visiting the site with their iPhone or Android devices should automatically be redirected to a mobile friendly version of the site while users of PCs, Macs, and iPads receive the fully formatted pages.

The Collections Search Center is in keeping with the Institution's thrust to digitize its collections making them available to a worldwide audience.

There are 30+ museums, libraries, archives, and special collections that contribute to the Collections Search Center.  Go to  the Collections Search Center About page to see contributing members,  information on their collections, and links to browse.

Check out the Freer|Sackler Youtube page for more information and tutorials on our collections.

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer|Sackler Archivist

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