Searching the Museum Collection Database Online

Written by: Anne Ruta, DAR Museum Collections Manager
August 1, 2017

The DAR Museum has been working on a project to enable the public to use the DAR website to find information about objects in the DAR Museum collection.  This is a big task since the museum collection contains over 30,000 objects. We use a database to keep track of all the information that we know about the paintings, furniture, clothing, textiles and items made of ceramics, glass and silver that are in the collection.  In the database there are fields for an object’s name, materials, place made, donor, maker, size, storage or display location and any history that we know about the object.  Now everyone is able to search this database from their own computer! Click here to browse the collection

The DAR Museum has used a database for object information since 1988, but the switch to a different collections management software, called Proficio, enabled this new web searching capability.  In order to facilitate searching in the database, we took several steps to prepare each object’s record.  Over the past year, we edited descriptions in the records to make them easier to read and understand.  We also added new information to the records, checked them for accuracy and took digital photos of the objects.  Some objects required additional detail photos to reveal areas that cannot be seen when an object is on display. The record for the chamber organ in the West Virginia Room, for example, has an overall photo as well as pictures of the barrels that play the music. 

To make the search activity useful, we determined what fields you can search and how the information looks in the search results.  Whether you browse through all the records or search for a specific object, your results will appear as a list and the fields you will see for each object are Object Name, Description, Artist/Maker, Date Made, Title, DAR Museum Catalog Number and a Photo. 

Choosing the Browse option gives you the opportunity to see a large number of records and to select how you want to organize this list.  If you organize by Object Name and start with desk, you will see an alphabetical list of objects starting with desks in the collection.  One of the records that will appear is a neoclassical style desk.  Clicking on the Object Name that is highlighted in blue will display additional information on the desk including its dimensions and the place where it was made. You might prefer to look at objects in the collection that were made during the 19th century.  To do this, organize the list by Date Made and browse starting with 19th century and the result will be a list of objects that have 19th century dates in the Date Made field.  

You can also explore the collection by electing to search for something specific. Choosing Search instead of Browse allows you to perform a Word Search.  Use Word Search to find something by a particular maker, owned by a U.S. President, or decorated with a certain motif. Just type a word or a name in the Word Search box and you will create a list of all records containing that term in any field. For example, a search for the painter Jacob Eichholtz will yield four painting records.

At the bottom of the Search page is the option to perform an Advanced Search which permits searching using more than one term.   You could search for objects made in Pennsylvania in the 19th century or paintings with boats as the subject.  Using Advanced Search also allows you to obtain a list of all objects on display in one of the period rooms. Try typing “Delaware Room” or “New York Room” (with quotation marks) in the Location box and you will see a list of the items on display in that area. We are currently adding information on the objects in all 31 period rooms and we are continuing to make more object information available. We hope this will be a useful tool for learning more about the DAR Museum’s stellar collection. 

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