Skip to Main Content

How To Conduct Research at the IU Libraries University Archives

Searching the Collections


Descriptions for processed collections are searchable through Archives Online: Archives Online is portal for accessing descriptive guides (known as finding aids) for collections across Indiana University. Finding aids list the arrangement of materials in a collection, similar to a table of contents or an inventory. Finding aids also provide contextual information about the collection creators, how the collection has been handled over time, and related collections and/or topics.


Archives Online allows you to browse finding aids created by repositories across all IU campuses. To navigate to University Archives from the Archives Online homepage, select “Explore Repositories” on the Indiana University Bloomington campus panel and scroll alphabetically to find University Archives. You can also access it directly through the URL:

This landing page displays an alphabetical (by collection name) list of every published University Archives finding aid. To browse the full list, select the option to “View all [654] collections” as indicated in the following screenshot:

Screenshot showing the landing page for

You can adjust display settings, add filters to narrow your browsing scope, and sort results. This screenshot shows all University Archives finding aids sorted by creator (Z-A), 50 results per page, and a compact view:

You can also apply filters, or limiters, to browse by aspects such as collection creator. Here you can see the results of browsing by Collection Creator, filtered for the IU Bloomington Folklore Institute. We have 14 different collections (with finding aids) of materials created by the Folklore Institute:


You may find that some of the filters have limited browsing functionality. For example, this screenshot shows the results of browsing all collections by Year, filtered to 1940-1960:

Note how the filtered results include any collections with dates that overlap with 1940-1960. In addition to date spans, collection titles tell us the names of the creators and the nature of the materials (personal papers, institutional records, etc.). Without any additional information displayed, however, it’s difficult to say which of the 414 collections would be more relevant for researching topics between 1940-1960. In general, Archives Online has better functionality if you start with a search term rather than browsing by collection title.


To search in Archives Online, start at the  homepage. You can access the search bar from any page on Archives Online but be sure to review your results. Results for the same query can vary depending on where you are in Archives Online. This is because the site is built for searching across different “levels” of archives. You can search for content across or within IU campuses (Bloomington, Kokomo, etc.), collecting repositories (University Archives, Lilly Library, etc.), and collections (C75 Herman B Wells papers, C709 Department of Astronomy papers, etc.).


Let’s say you want to find collection materials at University Archives about racial segregation. This screenshot shows the results for the keyword search “segregation” on The query fetched results from 57 collection finding aids across IU. These include holdings at University Archives and other repositories (Lilly Library, Archives of African American Art and Culture). The red arrows indicate the different holding repositories:


To focus on University Archives materials, use “Repository” filter under the “Limit your search” heading. This screenshot shows the same query for “segregation,” filtered by Repository for University Archives. The filter narrowed the search down considerably—from 57 collections represented to 9. Note that the total number of filtered results is 15. This means that the search term “segregation” was found 15 times across 9 different collection finding aids:

Also note that there are 7 matches in the Indiana University Folklore Institute student papers finding aid, but only three display on the main search result page. Use the “View all [7]” link to expand all search results in a particular finding aid.

It is important to craft multiple, thoughtful search ters , as not all the collection results may be relevant for one particular query. This screenshot shows an item from the Carl H. Eigenmann papers in the search results. “Carl H. Eigenmann, On the Precocious Segregation of the Sex Cells in Micrometrus Aggregatus, Gibbons, 1891” wouldn’t be relevant for research on the history of racial segregation, but because Archives Online full-text searches finding aids, the results include this item:

You can also refine your search with Boolean operators (they must be in all caps). For more information on using Boolean operators, exact word phrases, and search fields, consult (NOTE: As of 2/16/2024, guidance on help page needs revision. For example, the OR operator is necessary.)

RepositoryàCollectionàSearch term in context

If you aren’t sure about the relevance of a search result, click through to the finding aid see where they appear in context. Here is what happens when you click the link for “Carl H. Eigenmann, On the Precocious Segregation…1891:”

Finding aids are structured like outlines. We can see that “On the Precocious Segregation of the Sex Cells in Micrometrus Aggregatus Gibbons, 1891” appears in a list alongside other papers by Eiegenmann, including “The Fishes of San Diego, 1892” and “On the Occurrence of the Spiny Bonefish (Genus Chilmycterus) on the Coast of California, 1892.” We can also see that all three are contained in Box 2. They appear together under the header of a series (a thematic grouping of files in a collection): “Publications, 1887-1926.” You can use the “Show # items above/below” expander to see the rest of the inventory for that series. Click the + links to view other record series in the collection.

Note: Sometimes a particular file has additional description through the “more details” link. If you click through and are taken to the same page, you have reached the end of the descriptions for that item.

You can also use the indented outline at the top of the page to navigate the finding aid. To read a short description of the collection and its creator(s), navigate to the collection title “Carl H. Eigenmann papers, 1884-1925.” This will take you to the main landing page for the collection:

The landing page has three or four main tabs: Overview, Contents, Online content (if available), and Access. The Overview tab contains information about the collection’s scope and content, its creators, and its provenance (chain of custody, or how it came to University Archives). To further access a collection, you will need the collection title (Carl H. Eigenmann papers) and identifier (a C### (1-3 digits) code, e.g. C63). Be sure to look at the “Access” tab to see if any parts of the collection are restricted (not available for research).

At least 95% of University Archives collections are held at the Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF), which means we need at least 48 hours to ready boxes for request. To request access to collection materials, send an email to and include the collection title/identifier and box number(s) (e.g. C63 Carl H. Eigemann papers, boxes 1-2). Reading room appointments are available M-F, 9am-4:45pm.

Digitized Content

Some search results may include collection materials that have been digitized and attached to the online finding aid. Returning to our results for keyword searching "segregation" across University Archives collections, let's select "Non-Segregation Bill, 1948-1949" in the Indiana University President's Office records (C213):

Following the link, we are taken to the digitized contents of this folder, "Non-Segregation Bill, 1948-1949." The view defaults to the first item in the folder, but you can "page" through the items with left and right arrows, zoom in, and download contents:

This screenshot shows how each of the items linked in the online content viewer represents one physical item (e.g. a 5-page report, a 2-page letter, etc.) in a folder (e.g. "Non-Segregation Bill, 1948-1949") in a collection (e.g., Indiana University President's Office records, 1937-1962).