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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Philadelphia Area Special Collections Search Engine

Posted by Darin Hayton on 03/02 at 11:01 PM

Philadelphia has an incredible wealth of primary source material for the history of science. While many people would naturally think of Philadelphia if they were working on early American or 19th- and 20th-century project, local archives have great collections stretching back into the fifteenth century with some interesting material into the medieval period (apparently, an uncataloged 13th-century Papal Bull just turned up in the collections at the College of Physicians). Traditionally, the problem has been finding this material, particularly when it is spread across 10+ archives around the greater Philadelphia area. Fortunately, browsing local archival collections has become much easier thanks to the PACHS search tool.

The PACHS Special Collections Search page found here

PACHS’s Consortium Special Collections Search Hub offers a simple search box interface and searches the special collections holdings of nine local area archives (Academy of Natural Sciences, American Philosophical Society, Chemical Heritage Foundation, College of Physicians, Hagley Library, Historical Society of PA, Library Company, Penn, Wagner Free Institute of Science). The current implementation searches all the fields in the special collections record for the keywords or years you enter. So, for example, the search “astrologia 1524” turns up two copies of Thomas Erastus’s De astrologia divinatrice (Basil, 1580) because Erastus was born in 1524.

Results list from a search for “astrologia 1524”

To determine where the item is, look in the URL at the bottom of the item’s entry. After the “/catalogs/” in the URL is an abbreviation indicating the archive (e.g., “ansp” is the Academy of Natural Sciences or “cpp” is the College of Physicians of Philadelphia). There are ways to refine and restrict searches that make it even more useful. If you are looking for ways to avoid work or just want to think about your next article, spend some time the Consortium Special Collections Search Hub. It’s a great way to waste a few hours and find all sorts of interesting material.

You can always find the search too under the “Collections” link in the banner at the top of the page.

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Comment posted by Paul Halpern on 03/05 at 09:45 PM

It is a fantastic resource.  The wealth of Philadelphia’s collections is amazing.

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