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Guide to using the Fitzwilliam Museum's Online Catalogue

Welcome to The Fitzwilliam Museum's Online Catalogue. Please read the introduction, if you have not already, for an overview of our collections and the records which are available online at this time.


How to Search the Catalogue

By clicking the Search link (in the titlebar) on any page you will be taken to the simple search screen and from there you will also have access to a number of other available search forms.

In this guide we will start by doing some examples using the simple search form.

Let's start with a simple search to find say all the objects in the catalogue associated with 'Constable'. To do this type Constable in the search box and then click the Search button.

Brief Presentation

After a few moments you will be presented with a brief listing of what your search has found.

At the top of this brief listing will be a count of the number of objects retrieved that matched your search, for example something like:

Results 1-10 of 579

If you are getting hundreds of objects found (like we have with our example search) then it will be useful to refine your search, which we'll look at in the next section.

From the brief presentation screen you can see a 'thumbnail' image of the object, if one is available, and a brief summary of the object from the catalogue record.

From here you can look at individual records in greater detail by either clicking on the image or the text of the brief description. We will explore the detailed presentation in a later section.

The default for the number of brief records displayed per screen is set at 10 (you can change this value in the search options) and to navigate between brief presentation screens use the:

[next page] and/or [previous page] links.

Back to our example, click on the 'Search' link (in the titlebar) again to return to a blank simple search screen.

Refining Your Search

Refining your search will generally mean providing more search terms to limit the results to be more relevant to what you are looking for.

So lets go ahead and refine our search to include only paintings associated with the name constable which have images included on the catalogue. To do this enter constable painting in the search box and 'check' the box under the search option 'Show only records with images'. Now click the Search button.

In comparison to our previous search, which resulted in over 500 records found, this search has returned only a few records.

Again we can look at the detailed presentation of any of these records by either clicking on the image or the text of the brief description. But before we talk about the detailed presentation screen lets try another example of refining our search. Click on 'Search' (in the titlebar) again to return to the simple search screen.

Type horse into the search box and check the Show only records with images. Click the Search button. Like our first search you can see this has returned hundreds of results (over 700 actually) so you need to decide how you are going to refine your search; by artist? by another subject term? by material?

Lets try refining by subject - looking for records relating to a horse with a rider. Click on the 'Search' link (in the titlebar) again to return to the simple search screen.

Type horse rider into the search box and check the Show only records with images. Click the Search button.

Well done! By refining our search we are down to a few records which are quite specific to our search criteria. Staying on this results page choose the Leonardo da Vinci drawing e.g.

Leonardo da Vinci (draughtsman)
A rider on a rearing horse (1481)
drawing (metalpoint reinforced with pen and
brown ink on a pinkish prepared surface)

Museum Accession Number: PD.44-1999

by clicking on its entry and lets move on to exploring the detailed presentation screen.

Detailed Presentation

The detailed presentation of an object contains:

  • the thumbnail images (if any) available for an object and its relative size display (if appropriate)
  • the textual information from the catalogue record, and lastly
  • the large display version of available images for this object.

On the detailed presentation screen for an object you will see the Artist / Maker name is presented as a hyperlink, clicking on this will perform a search on that name should you wish to see all the objects the Museum has for that person on the catalogue at this time.

There is also a hyperlink that works in the same way for the name of the person/institution given for Provenance, in addition there is another hyperlink here that will filter the Provenance for just the department's objects relating to the Provenance Name.

Where an object has a relationship with another object(s) in the catalogue this will also be shown as a hyperlink to take you directly to that object.  The relationship will be either as a part, or parts of (a bookbinding, sketchbook, manuscript, etc), or will be that of a related object in the catalogue.

Advanced Search Techniques

Advanced options:

  • The keyword or can be used to stop the default search behaviour of two words (terms) in the field being logically 'and'ed during the search.
  • The keyword not can also be used to explicity remove a term from the results.
  • The keyword and can be used - it is generally the default behaviour so is redundant by itself but can be used with not (i.e. and not)
  • You can single or double quote words (terms) or phrases. This can have one of two effects:
    Specific term matching. Normally terms are loosely matched (e.g. cat will match cat, catalunya, catich etc) where as a quoted single term will cause an exact match e.g 'cat' will only match cat. To use quotes and maintain loose matching use a wildcard e.g 'cat*'.
    This is quite important for artist names (which are treated as single terms) where the form 'surname, firstname*' is most accurate.
    Phrase (word) searching. Phrase searching is quite loose. Behind the scenes what actually happens is a search that checks that all the words within the quotes exist within a single field, but not necessarily in the order you specify. i.e. you will get record matches that contain all the words in the quoted phrase but not necessarily the exact phrase (in order).
  • Parentheses can be used to change the precedence of search order.
    e.g. parrot or (dog and cat) or
    (degas or monet) and painting

How the Search Works Behind the Scenes

The searching method behind the scenes makes use of a unified thesaurus that allows for alternative spelling or equivalent terms for many of the key words and names. For example searching on the artist Titian will find the objects we have by Tiziano Vecellio (his preferred name) and also Aspetti, Tiziano as they share the same name. These alternatives and equivalencies are constantly being created and updated, but as you can appreciate it is a never-ending and time-consuming task.

How to get help

We would welcome your comments on the online catalogue, and its contents.