Photographs: Research & Ordering

Subjects: How-To Guides
Tags: arts, how-to, photos

Search Tools

Library Catalog

All photograph collections are listed in the library catalog, including many that can't be found in Collections Online.  Manuscript and government records collections may also contain photographic series.  

If digitized content exists for these collections, links are included, but most of these materials are not digitized, so you will have to visit the library to view the photographs.  

Hint: Search for what interests you with the term photographs after it.  

Online catalog search box containing the words winter carnival photographs

 

Finding Aids

Finding aids are online or paper inventories that list the specific contents of an archival collection, including photographs.  Less than 20% of our collections have online finding aids, and some of these include digital content like scanned images.  

Finding aids have more detail than the library catalog provides.  They can give users a better sense of the scope and content of the collection and, in some cases, photographs are described at the individual item-level.  For more about finding aids, please watch this short tutorial video.    

Hint: Use keyboard shortcuts to search for a term within an online finding aid.  On a PC press and hold "ctrl" and then press "f" (command and f on a Mac).

 

Card Catalog

Some of our portrait collection--specifically images of people with last names starting with Ore- through W--can only be found in card catalogs.  Work is being done to catalog all the portraits in Collections Online, but currently this information is only accessible in the Library.    

Photo Albums and Photo Collections

Man, woman and girl looking at photograph album, circa 1950.Photograph albums and collections of photographs vary in size from just a few images to many boxes containing thousands of photographs or negatives.  Some albums and collections are topical (about a single subject,  place, or event), while others are collections of individuals or families.

Photograph albums and collections are cataloged in the library catalog.

Hints:

  • Use the word "photographs" in addition to your other library catalog search terms.  
     

Some significant photo collections include:

 

Photos in Manuscript Collections

Manuscript collections are records, papers, and other materials from a person, family, business, or organization (churches, clubs, political parties, etc.).  Many of these collections also include photographs, though the quantity of photos varies widely.  

They are all cataloged in the library catalog. Some collections also have more detailed online finding aids, and a small portion of the finding aids contain digitized photographs.  

MHS Catalog Options dropdown menu with Manuscript and Railroad Collections selected

Hints:

  • Use the word "photographs" in addition to your other library catalog search terms.  
  • Limit the catalog search: Click on the MHS Catalog Options drop-down menus and select "Manuscripts and Railroad Collections" (see image)
  • Search digital finding aids.  Do not use the Narrow by Type: Photographs option (this will narrow to only collections of photographs, rather than collections including photographs).
  • Use keyboard shortcuts to search for a term within a finding aid.  On a PC press and hold "ctrl" and then press "f" (command and f on a Mac).

Some examples of manuscript collections with photos are:

 

Photos in Government Records

Many photographs can be found in State Archives collections, either as independent series of records or within a series of records.  When searching the library catalog you can limit the results in the catalog options box to State Government Records when searching for Governors, state departments, agencies, and institutions and to Local Government Records when searching for county, city, township, and school records.

 

MHS Catalog Options dropdown menu with State Government Records selectedHints:

  • Use the word "photographs" in addition to your other library search terms.  
  • Limit the catalog search: Click on the MHS Catalog Options drop-down menus and select either State or Local Government Records. (see image)
  • Use keyboard shortcuts to search for a term within a finding aid.  On a PC press and hold "ctrl" and then press "f" (command and f on a Mac).

 

Examples of photo collections within State Archives and Government Records include:

 

Examples of photos within Government Records' series include:

Photos in Published Materials

Books, articles, and other published materials can be good sources of images.  These items are all cataloged in the library catalog.  

Hints:

  • Use the word "pictorial" in addition to your other search terms.
  • Click on a title in the catalog results list to get more information, including a description of the book in Physical Details and--in some cases--a link to a digitized version of the article or book.  
Gale Family Library • Minnesota Historical Society • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300
Currently open by appointment only.