Help and Explanation

Entering Seach Terms

Just beneath the line which reads Search: Across all Museums is a space where terms can be entered. A single term may be entered, such as "monet", or multiple terms may be entered, such as "monet boats". This will search through the database for records which contain both "monet" AND "boats". In order to search for items which contain either of the terms "monet" OR "boats", simply perform two seperate searches.
By default, the search terms entered will query the entire database - all 7 museum collections. To specify a particular collection to search within, use the pull down menu and highlight the museum of choice. If for example, portrait photography were of interest then Library of Congress might be selected, as shown. For information on the images provided by various museums check the Content Descriptions page.

Choosing Search Terms

The terms you enter are sent to an SQL Server database where they are then matched against terms in the database. Precisely, the patterns are matched rather than the actual terms. A search of the term boat, for example, yields 42 matching items. Because the search engine looks for the pattern boat (literally those four letters in order) records can contain terms which include boat - boats, Showboat, and boatwomen for example.

In the Title, the term boats appears.
In the Title, the term Showboat appears.
In the Title, the term Boatwomen appears.

It is important to carefully select terms (or patterns) which will return the most relevant items from the database without missing important ones. Searching for records which contain the term religion yields 14 results; searching for records which contain the term religious yields 114 results! The solution to this problem (until the search engine is improved) is to enter a truncated term which will represent both religion and religious - try religio or simply relig.

Searchable Fields

The MESL Database contains 32 fields which are explained in detail in the data dictionary. The search engine, however, looks through only 5 of these fields when a search is executed. The searchable fields are:

  1. Creator Name
  2. Creator Culture
  3. Object Title
  4. Object Type
  5. Subject

When a search is executed the engine looks within all 5 of these fields for matches. Searching strictly within one field is currently impossible which can occasionally be confusing. Searching for works by Edward Hopper by entering hopper as a search term will match 11 records, several of which have William Hopper as the subject! Future versions of the search engines will match terms in more fields (Creation Date or Style, for instance) and will allow users to specify within which fields to search.

Presentation of Search Results

Search results (if any exist) are displayed as shown at left. A maximum of 10 results are displayed on a single page - remaining results may be retrtieved by clicking the "GET REMAINING ITEMS" button beneath the tenth record.
Each record returned is accompanied by a thumbnail image which links to the full sized image with a mouse click. With the thumbnail is a brief indexing record. There is also a link to the Full Description, which incudes the entire indexing record of the image. Notice the set of fields that is displayed is not equivalent to the set of fields that are searched. The displayed fields are:

If data is not present in a particular field then that field is not displayed. In this case Subject is not displayed because the subject field for this image contains no data.

Date refers to the Creation Begin Date of the object represented, and Credit is the label each institution requires be displayed with every digital image they provide to the MESL project. More explanation of this can be found in the Data Dictionary.


There are nearly 5,000 images from 7 museums in our database. The number of images should double in the next few months as a second shipment of images and text is received. Three copies of each image exist; thumbnail, medium(400 pixels high), and full-size(the largest provided by the museum). When viewing images via the browse lists medium sized images are displayed. When viewing images after performing a search the full-sized images are displayed. All images are in JPEG format.

Questions or comments about this page should be directed to Charly Bauer at