Search Tips for MESL

*General Information

The MESL image collection includes about 4,700 images from 7 different institutions. There are paintings, photographs, sculpture, furniture, jewelry, ceramics, textiles and numerous other categories of cultural artifacts. The objects date from -1800 (1800 B.C.) through 1992.

Although the images have been united to form a single MESL image database, it is important to keep in mind that the indexing and descriptions of these images was made by 7 different institutions. The indexing system used at each of the institutions is unique to its organization. This means that the search terms will vary widely among institutions--searching may at times be frustrating because of the inconsistent nature of the indexing.

see also: MESL-- FrequentlyAsked Questions


The Browse feature is a new addition to the CU-MESL site and is intended both to reflect use on campus and to showcase collections of images drawn from the MESL database. Course collections that have been preselected by professors as well as student collections can be viewed by following the Browse link on the MESL home page.

*Search Options

---Image Search Mode vs. Text Only Mode

You can get your search results in either of two formats, with images or with text alone. If you choose the Image Mode the results of your search will be displayed as small images with some information about the work of art. You can click on the image to move to a screen with a larger picture and ALL the data that is available for that piece. From there you can go to an even larger, high quality, high resolution, image.
If you use the Text-Only Mode, you'll get the same information about the works as when you search in the Image Mode, but without the pictures. This lets MESL give you your results faster (it is equivalent to turning off the "Auto Load Images" feature in Netscape). Again, you can move to all the data and an image by clicking on the highlighted text in the "Image" box, and then move on to the larger picture.

---Keyword Searching

If you don't know exactly what you are searching for, you may want to try typing words (or parts of words) into the Search by Keyword box. If you enter more than one word in a box the boolean operator used will be "and."

---Fielded Searching

If you do know what you are looking for, for example all the works by a particular artist, you may have faster results using a fielded search. In the empty boxes to the right of the field names, enter the words (or parts of words) that you would like to search. If you enter more than one word in a box the boolean operator used will be "and." If you enter words into more than one field the boolean operator used will also be "and." Additional search terms will narrow your search request-in other words, entering text into additional fields will yield more specific results.

*Search Terms and Field Definitions

To help in the search process we have provided a list of the MESL Field Definitions and have pulled out some of the terms used by the different institutions. Some of the lists of terms were too large, e.g. listing the Titles of the works seemed unwieldy, but we will continue to add lists of entries as time allows.

*Searching for Dates

The works in this collection range from -1800 (1800 B.C.) through 1992. To search on the Begin Date and End Date we suggest using the > (greater than) and < (less than) symbols. If you know you want to find a work from the 1920s, enter
Begin Date >1919
End Date <1930

*Special Characters for Searching

if you enter DOG in a field, you will retrieve dog (the search engine is NOT case-sensitive) and also doggies. = forces the words to be an exact match
Example: =sun matches sun but not sunny * is a wild card or truncation character
Example: *bow matches bow and also rainbow

@ matches one and only one arbitrary character
Example: @rain matches brain BUT NOT rain or strain.

*Default Settings

You can change the defaults by using the pop-up lists. The defaults are set to:
show you the first 5 images in the result set
search across all institutions
return a set of unsorted images

*Known Problems

Since the data from the institutions was received in various forms, some of the special letters, used for example in foreign words, were garbled--this makes words like "cloisonné" and names like " Dürer" difficult to search. We are working on solving this problem. In the meantime, a search on "cloisonn" would retrieve any cloisonné works, and either "rer" or "Albrecht" would retrieve all works by Albrecht Dürer.
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