New integrated search enhances access to Library and Museum collections

Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology. Photo by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications


The Princeton University Library and Princeton University Art Museum have launched an integrated discovery capability allowing users to search both institutions’ collections from a unified location.

Visitors conducting searches on the Library website will now see objects from the Museum’s collections included in the search results, along with other various topic-related Library holdings such as books, journals, archives, maps and geographic collections, digital collections, and databases. For example, a search for “Monet” brings up over 2,000 items from the Library catalog along with 19 objects from the Museum’s collection, including the French painter’s renowned Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge.

“This service is both an asset to our patron community as well as a testament to the quality of work our respective cataloging and IT teams have performed over the last several years," said Jon Stroop, Director of Library IT and Metadata Services. Previously, neither party had adequate access to the underlying data in its systems to support a service like this. Development of local APIs [application programming interface] to open up their metadata, emerging standards within the cultural heritage community, and improvement of certain elements in both the Museum and Library’s descriptive metadata are among the key factors he cited that ultimately made this possible.

As the initiative evolves, the Museum and Library plan to gather user feedback which is needed to refine metadata mappings to enhance detailed search results. At this time, this interface provides an excellent point of entry for users who are trying to get a general sense of familiarity with these two vast collections.

"It is important for our teams to not only make research simpler for our users, but to do it in a way that lays a technology foundation for future enhancements and innovation," said Cathryn Goodwin, Museum Manager of Collections Information. "We are fortunate to have the support of the University and others to allow us to build toward a long-term vision of ever increasing access to our collections."

Monet's Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge

A search for 'Monet' on the Library website brings up over 2,000 items from the Library catalog along with 19 objects from the Museum’s collection, including this 1899 piece, the French painter’s renowned Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge. From the Princeton University Art Museum's Collection of William Church Osborn, Class of 1883.

Plans are in place for additional enhancements to the joint search capability, including the integration of Library results in searches conducted from the Museum website later this year. The partners are also discussing shared digital collections and sharing digital images across repositories.

The Museum’s contributions to this project were made possible in large part through its ongoing Collections Discovery Initiative, which began in 2015 and has focused on cataloging and infrastructure that built the foundation for data services like the integrated search function. These efforts continue today through the generous support of the University’s Office of the Provost and grants provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, and the Mellon Foundation. 

Providing an integrated search service also supports our faculty and graduate students as they explore collections to utilize in their curriculum. “Teach With Collections at Princeton”—a new teaching initiative, jointly developed by the Library, the Museum, and the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, launched this fall. “Teach With Collections” supports the use of Princeton’s rich collections to enhance undergraduate and graduate-level teaching by providing faculty and instructors collaboration, new collection-based resources, and pedagogical guidance on teaching with art, archival, and special collections materials.

Written by Princeton University Art Museum and Princeton University Library staff

Media contact: Barbara Valenza, Director, Library Communications