Collections are fundamental.
People seem to have a primordial urge to find things, put them into an organized arrangement, and then share them with others. You just can't stop them from doing this!
|Engraving of the Museum Wormianum, 1655 (Wikimedia)
Even further back, in ancient Babylon, Princess Ennigaldi (the daughter of King Nabonidus, the ruler of the Neo-Babylonian Empire in the 6th century BC) collected and even curated Mesopotamian artifacts with origins spanning 1,500 years.
It was found in the ruins of Nabonidus’ palace in 1925 by archaeologist Leonard Woolley. Notably, the objects—which ranged from inscribed clay tablets to figurative sculpture fragments—were organized and even labeled with notes on their provenance. Could this be the oldest museum?
In more recent times, people collect all kinds of things, organizing them into online collections for others to use. These collections are often key to doing deep research on a topic. Remember our use of archives in the Matthew Perry Challenge?
If you're going to study the Aztecs, you probably want to get as close to the topic as possible--sometimes that means looking at speciality collections. For instance, if you're studying the Aztec deity Xipe Totec, you might want to know that the British Museum has a great stone head of this god:
But paradoxically, when you're searching for something, and don't quite know what it is you seek, these collections (which might well help you) often don't show up in the search results. They're probably somewhere in the search results list, but perhaps not in the top couple of pages.
So... a useful piece of SearchResearcher knowledge is knowing what collections there are, and how you find them.
One can find collections of online newspaper archives (discussed in SRS earlier), images (such as NASA's great collection of space photography), and even printable 3D models.
Of course, as SearchResearchers, we want to have the knowledge about such collections, but realize that we can't know them all. While knowing is good, knowing-how is even better.
This leads me to my SRS Challenges for the week. I'd like to publish a short collection of tips and tricks for finding collections of online stuff. I'll compile the posts into our collective solutions for next week (and for future reference).
Can you help out?
Here are the Challenges:
1. What's the best / amazing / most-interesting collection of stuff you've found online?
For me, it's the Calflora collection of flowering plants in California, for you it might be something else.2. What's your best search tip for finding these collections?
We've talked before about adding the search term "list of" as in [ list of California lakes ] to find "list of" items. What else works for you? Are there special search terms one should use?3. How can we find collections in other countries and languages?
It's the WORLD Wide Web, so let's use the whole thing! If I want to find collections in other countries (say, collections of Inca artifacts from Peru), how would I do that? What search terms are best in DE, ES, IT, etc?
After we're done, I'll publish the set of collections and a list of the "collection finding" search heuristics.
As we always do, leave your notes and findings in the comments below--let us all learn from what you've found out. I'll summarize the findings (and add a few of my own) next week.