Search Results - Frequently Asked Questions

Please read this disclaimer!

As a public museum, we believe that you have a right to know what we have in our collections, and so we are happy to make this searchable catalogue available. We hope that you find it interesting and useful.

The information on this site is taken from a simplified version of our current in-house database system. Records are automatically updated each week, and are made available "as is" for public searching.

While we strive for excellence, we make no guarantees as to the accuracy of any content, and accept no liability for any problem arising from its interpretation and use.

I can't find what I'm looking for.

The search engine looks for exact matches for each word in the text you are searching for; the first thing to do is check that your spelling is correct (especially when searching for things like proper names, latin species names and so on).

It is also worth trying variations on the word you are looking for (e.g. "Greece" instead of "Greek"), or expanding your search slightly (try "Italy" instead of limiting your search to"Rome")

Further hints, and instructions on how to use more advanced searches are available here

Please note that not all of our collections are yet on-line; if an object does not appear in your search results, this does not necessarily mean that we do not have the object. Please keep trying, as new and updated records are added to the site weekly.

You can also email the relevant curator (see the list of staff mentioned at the foot of your search results page) for information about objects which are not listed here.

My search retrieves too many records.

Try a more specific search by:

Using AND, OR, or NOT to add more search terms. For example, search for "coal and Midlothian" instead of just "coal".


Restricting your search to particular fields. For example, search for "materials has watercolour" instead of just "watercolour".

Finally, if you have a long page of search results, you can search within the page using your browser's "Find in this page" option (this is usually on the Edit menu).

Why don't the search results contain the text I searched for?

The search engine will check an object's entire record for the text you are searching for, but not all of this information is included in the results you see displayed.

This can mean that you may see results on the screen that do not appear to contain the text you searched for.

You can avoid this happening by restricting your searches to particular fields.

Why do the search results include irrelevant records?

All the objects that are returned by your search will contain the text you searched for somewhere in the record, but it may not be in the context you expect; an example is available here

You can avoid this happening by either:

Restricting your search to particular fields.


Searching for an exact phrase.


Using AND, OR or NOT to refine your search.

The results contain terms I don't recognise.

In many cases, the information contains specialist terms with no simple explanations. Given the nature of our collections this is to some extent unavoidable, however we are trying to ensure that major items of public interest do have intelligible accompanying notes. If you want to know more about an object, email one of the staff mentioned at the foot of your search results page, giving the object's museum number and brief details.

Various abbreviations (codes) have been used in the manufacture information; this is because the information may include more than one name, each with a different role. For example, an artist may create a print, which is then published or printed by somebody else.

The codes indicate the role of the person, group or institution in the manufacture or use of an object.

We use the following standard codes:

Why isn't more information displayed about the objects?

Currently the information you see is only a limited sub-set of the full museum catalogue records; some data is withheld for security or legal reasons. Acquisition information, for instance, is not currently displayed because of possible data protection issues. Please note that we constantly review what information is presented, so this may change in the future.

It is also worth noting that many of the records are in the process of being updated, so more information about many of our objects will appear over time.

I find the text difficult to read.

The quickest way to make the text easier to read is to change your browser settings to make the text size larger. On most browsers this can be found in the "View" menu.

If you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer, go to the "View" menu, then "Text Size" and select "Larger" or "Largest"

If you are using Mozilla Firefox, go to the "View" menu, then "Text Size" and select "Increase" until you can easily read the text.

If you are using Netscape, go to the "View" menu, then "Text Zoom" and select "Larger" until you can easily read the text.

The pages use Cascading Style Sheets, which means that all of the background colours, text styles and so on can be overridden by your own user style sheet if you wish.

I've found an error in the records

We are aware that the data contains occasional errors; we are constantly working to correct these errors and improve our records. If you have found an error, please email one of the staff mentioned at the foot of the results page,giving the museum catalogue number of the object and brief details.

For more information...

If you have any other queries about using the search pages, please email