Thursday, June 25, 2020

SearchResearch Challenge (6/24/20): How to find collections of online content?

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! 

Old Museum
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:  

Xipe Totec headThe Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

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. 

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. 

Search on!  


  1. Good Day!

    "List of" is a great tip and I have found incredible things. I sometimes use "lista de" and also Category on WIkipedia. While searching noticed that "lists of" on Wikipedia are not translated to Spanish. And, a few weeks ago, noticed Simple English, which of course SRS to know what is the difference with English

    The most recent, with [list of hummingbird species]


    Hummingbirds Wikipedia

    For Q1, It is difficult. I have some options. This is one, I like a lot: ESA Earth From Space

    For Q2 and Q3: I think some words and helps are: Dataset, database, searching for playlists, using and following #

    Also a good thing is creating our own Google Collections (Google + was great to find and follow collections.) I think Pinterest works (never understood how that works and you can't (at least I can't see for more than a few seconds and then is closed to subscribe.) Maybe the new Google Keen helps too.

    How to access Google Collections

    1. Great point, Ramón!

      Note that you can also do a [ list of hummingbirds in Mexico ] and get a localized list!

    2. Awesome idea, Dr. Russell. I never thought about adding that. I'll try what new things I find. There are a lot of hummingbirds. They are so beautiful and soft. I like the most one that has a red bill and the one with white belly. And, learning about so many new

    3. Awesome idea, Dr. Russell. I never thought about adding that. I'll try what new things I find. There are a lot of hummingbirds. They are so beautiful and soft. I like the most one that has a red bill and the one with white belly. And, learning about so many new

    4. Reading Remmij's findings thought that sometimes searching using [ abc inurl:collections] could give us some good answers. Therefore, I tried with [Hummingbirds inurl:collections] I still think we need to add something else to make this work

      Learned something new: “Vagrant hummingbirds”— those that do not migrate south in the winter or are spotted outside their expected range.

    5. Last Friday night, I was watching the TV Show Pasapalabra. There I learned about Denmark's Flag. Russia late for the Olympic Games and this Friday: [Bilimbiques]

      Bilimbiques: Revolution Paper (México, in Spanish) Billy Weeks name adaptation

      Also learned how "hecho la mocha" came from. Translation for this would be like going super fast.

      Small, powerful train.

      With [Bilimbiques valor]

      Mexico's Money History. In Spanish.

      Finally, a few minutes ago, I learned this: Contronyms: words that have two opposite meanings.

  2. One of my favourite sites for history in New Zealand is Digital NZ which pulls together many collections from all over NZ. It has many images that I would not have found otherwise because I just didn't know the indivdual collections existed.

  3. …started with first illustration… a couple hours later I was still there… collection-itis…
    BHK blog
    illustration & text

  4. Historical Cookbooks and Recipes
    For Q1 Keywords Research Guides. Libguides and Digital Collections
    For Q2 added continent but often includes links to worldwide collections Did a separate with continents to see results

    1. Yes an excellent collection and another La cuisine creole : a collection of culinary recipes from leading chefs and noted Creole housewives, who have made New Orleans famous for its cuisine

  5. this has 678 collections featured. This was the first place I thought of to look.


    Good place to ask about obscure (to you) tools for ID


    Lots of funny stuff in these collections

  8. Searching to identify flora, fauna, fungi etc can be tricky. I fell across an app which aimed at reporting and identifying for you thinks you see in nature. It is called iNaturalist. I got it from the App Store. It is free international and has 100s if thousands of users. The other users confirm whether the default identification you have chosen in the app is correct or add comments or corrections. Finds or observations are mapped on a world map, helping you see whether you have a likely match to other observations in your area. Very useful!

  9. 1) No favourite "amazing" list - although every now and then I look at old websites to see what they used to look like, or how they've changed. (Often from a professional perspective too). So one of my favourite sites in that context is the Wayback machine at Especially things like the old TV / radio news. But also simulations of old arcade games, a section on the Grateful Dead and so much more. just gets better all the time.

    I'm also a fan of the Google Art Project ( so I can wander around museums and galleries I'd never normally get to so easily (especially during the current crisis).

    2) Finding stuff like this however is harder unless you know what you are looking for. I take the view that if you don't know what it's called, think where whatever it is you are looking for could be found (museum, gallery, park, beach, shop, market....) and then look for a list of this - so the "List of" tip is a great one.

    Another I use that's more technical is to look for a database so rather than "List of Medical Research sites" I think you get better results from "Medical Research Databases". I'll also use terms such as "archives" "portal" too. (Just did a search for something else that interests me - great content sites that have now gone. Found this site - but it misses out so many of my lost favourites - so sometimes it's tough to find everything and I'd love to know if there's a way to get more. On this list - even if good, there's no "Northern Light", Everyzing, Transium, IBM Infomarket, Topsy, Silobreaker and several more (although is there). So back to to find what these used to look like).

    3. For other languages, I'll use the same approach but translate my search into the relevant language. For example, 博物馆列表 seems to give OK results on both Google and Baidu - although I had to back translate the results to check that what it gave me WAS a "List of museums". (Using the word "database" also worked).

  10. Most interesting collection. This all started with a nice photograph of my paternal grandfather long ago standing by a Rolls Royce motor car. There is another man in the picture with one foot on the running board and pipe in hand. So I wanted to know if the car's owner was grandfather or the other guy. I suspected it was the other guy but Who Knew? I searched online a decade and more ago, I wrote to the factory. Got nowhere.
    Fast forward to last year. An English cousin casually mentioned that an old pal of his now lived near me. Perhaps we would like to get together because he was an interesting chap. Oh, he is president of the local chapter of Rolls Royce [RR] Fanciers Club. Well, I asked him if he would take a look at my photo and tell me what he saw there. I sent it; he studied it and sent it to the World RR president. He instantly knew that it was the second RR sold in London in 1926 from the little bit of license plate that was readable. and he knew the first few owners, none of whom were my GF. He also knew the body was by Barker-Definitely. In case you did not know all you bought from RR was the chassis. You the new owner had to hire a firm to design and build the body. Barker was one such. He added that he thought that car now was in a private Collection in Europe. So, searching for |RR museum collection europe| There are not many but I found my car. Fully restored and on display including the name of the original purchaser . . . Not grandfather though.

  11. Re previous comment forgot to add its in the Vonier Collection. Its a 3/4 Cabriolet.

  12. A lot of collections you can find on the Dutch website is an independent initiative by two information professionals, Jeroen de Boer and Edwin Mijnsbergen and came into being after an open letter about internet freedom and Dutch Public Libraries. More background information you can find on >>