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Syracuse University Libraries

Special Collections Research Strategies: Searching the Website

The purpose of this guide is to assist students, faculty, and the general public in conducting research at the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) at Syracuse University Library.

Searching the SCRC Website: Collections

Images of materials housed in the Special Collections Research Center.

In addition to searching the library catalog, you can also search the rare books and manuscripts collections directly from the SCRC website.

Once you arrive at the site, select Search the Collections on the center page (as seen on the left) to be directed to the search engine, as shown to the right. 

From this page you can browse the SCRC collections by subject or by type of material, or you can access our search pages, above on the right.

From Search the Collections you can access the Collections home page as seen by the little house.

From this page you can access Collection Areas, Digital Collections, Preservation and Conservation,and the University Archives.

Collection Areas: SCRC has a strong collection of related materials in a few specific subject areas, including Architecture and Industrial DesignIllustration and Printing History, and Pulp Literature and Science Fiction. Select an area from the list of subjects, as shown below, to find related materials in our collections.

Search the Collections offers a variety of choices in your research.

  • Search the Finding Aid – Finding aids provide detailed descriptions of the contents of manuscript and archival collections. Search the finding aids to locate photographs, correspondence, artwork, memorabilia, non-commercial audio recordings, and other unpublished material in the collections.
  • Search the Classic Catalog – Search the Classic Catalog for books, journals, broadsides, commercial recordings, and other published material. The search results are automatically limited to SCRC’s holdings. You can further refine the parameters of your search by date, subject, format, author, language, and more.
  • Search Digital Collections – Use this portal to browse and search digital reproductions of thousands of items from our collections. Materials include photographs, correspondence, artwork, memorabilia, audio and moving image recordings, and book covers. SCRC also maintains several specialized portals that provide more sophisticated access to specific subsets of our digital holdings. For a complete list, visit our Digital Collections page.
  • Search Summon – This basic search will automatically refine the results to both catalogued materials and archival and manuscript collections held by SCRC. You can further refine your search results in the left menu by the type of material (archival materials, books, audio recordings, etc.), subjects, and disciplines.


Search by Type of Material: Print and Archival Collections

Printed Materials: Items such as rare books can be searched on the main Syracuse University Libraries website using the search bar powered by Summon or by using the Classic Catalog. To limit your search to items located in SCRC, use the "Advanced Search" from the Finding Aids,

shown below. Contact the SCRC Reference Librarian if you need additional help locating one of our rare books. 

Archival Materials: Items such as manuscript collections can be searched through the SCRC’s Finding Aids. There are multiple ways to both browse and search the manuscript collections at SCRC: 

  • Perform a basic keyword search (ie, “abolition,” “Wizard of Oz,” etc.)
  • Perform an advanced search by defining parameters such as Year, Subject, and Type of Material.
  • Browse alphabetically by creator (ie, “Smith, Gerrit) or collection title (ie, “Gerrit Smith Papers”).
  • Browse by subject area (ie, “Activism and Social Reform,” “Plastics,” etc.)
  • Browse by year
  • Browse by type of material (ie diaries, painting, cartoon, etc.)
  • Browse by the item title or "Any"


To begin browsing alphabetically by creator or collection title, select "Collection Title," as seen in the above image, and a drop down menu will provide you the list of browsing options listed above. Once you have selected to browse by collection title or creator, you may further refine your search by selecting criteria from the scrolling menus on the left of the screen. These parameters include: dates, names, type of material, subject, and subject strengths. An example of these criteria is shown below. Finally, select the Finding Aid for the collection you wish to view.

You can also browsing by subject. Select a subject from the options listed at the top of the screen, as shown below, to see collections associated with those topics. Finally, select the Finding Aid for the collection you wish to view.

SCRC subject browsing example


There are two methods available for searching the Finding Aids. You may either perform a Basic Search by keyword, or an Advanced Search by defined parameters. 

To perform a Basic Search by keyword simply enter the word or phrase in which you are interested. To search for Finding Aids containing a specific phrase, enclose that phrase in quotation marks, as shown below. The results page will display the Finding Aids for collections containing materials related to the keyword or phrase. You may further refine these results by selecting criteria from the scrolling menus on the left of the screen (see “Browsing Alphabetically by Creator or Collection Title,” above). Finally, select the Finding Aid for the collection you wish to view.

To perform an Advanced Search, select one or more parameters from the dropdown menus provided, as shown below. You can search by:

  • Collection Title
  • Creator
  • Subject
  • Year – Enter dates in the format yyyy (e.g. 1975) for years, or yyyy-yyyy (e.g. 1860-1865) for date spans
  • Type of Material
  • Item Title
  • Any

If using more than one search term, select “AND” to find collections with all terms; select “OR” to find collections with any one of the terms. Select “NOT” to exclude a term from your search. The results page will display the Finding Aids for collections matching your search parameters. As with a basic search, you can further refine these results by selecting criteria from the scrolling menus on the left of the screen (see “Browsing Alphabetically by Creator or Collection Title,” above). Finally, select the Finding Aid for the collection you wish to view.

More tips for defining your search parameters and formatting search terms for Advanced Searches can be found on the Search and Browse Page.


Search by Type of Material: Audio & Digital Collections

Image of an artifact housed in the Belfer Audio Archive.

Belfer Audio Archive: When you select this option from the Collections menu on the SCRC website, you are taken to the Belfer's main website. From this site, you can learn about the audio collections, visitor policies, services, programs, and using the recording studio. You can also learn about Sound Beat, the daily 90 second radio show that highlights the Belfer collections of recorded sound. Finally, the website also gives you access to the Belfer Cylinders Digital Collection, a database of digitized Belfer recordings you can listen to on your computer.


The best way to search the collection of Belfer audio recordings is through the main and classic catalogs on the library website. While the Belfer Audio Archive is located in a separate building, Belfer collections must be viewed in the Special Collections Reading Room. You can request a listening copy of Belfer audio materials here.


Digital Special Collections: In addition to the Belfer Cylinders Digital Connection, there are eight other digitized special collections that can Images of material housed in the Special Collections Research accessed and searched through the SCRC website:

You can browse the Digital Special Collections or do an advanced search by collection title in the Syracuse University Digital Library database.

More Syracuse University Digitized Collections

You can see all of Syracuse University's digital collections by visiting the Syracuse University Digitized Collections website. Some of the collections here include Aerial Photographs of Syracuse, NY, 1926; the Arts Image Collection; and the Character Studies Theatre Interviews Archvies Collection.


Need more help navigating the SCRC website? Ask the SCRC Reference Librarian for assistance.