HOCEF Guide to Searching
Please note: Our site contains some images – like photos of deceased ancestors and sacred items – that may be sensitive, offensive, or otherwise difficult to see for some people. Please take caution when searching and reach out if you think there are images that should be taken off our public website.
Many of our collection records are still labeled according to the old terms from when they were collected or studied by scholars in the 19th and 20th centuries – including broad terms like “South Seas” or “Polynesia.” Many of these terms are no longer useful, appropriate, or correct. And some may be offensive or discriminatory. The Peabody Museum is committed to addressing these problems, but it can be a slow process with over 1.2 million materials in the collections. Our museum staff are continually updating these records, adding to and improving content. If you have questions, need assistance, or want to give us some suggestions, we’d be happy to hear from you. Reach out to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The simplest way to search or browse for collections is to enter search terms into the Quick Search tool bar on the left side of the page. It functions similar to a google search – try entering an object name, a country, or a culture group. You can enter single terms or a combination. Similar to Google, if you want words to appear together, use quotations, e.g. “Marshall Islands.” Entering just Marshall Islands without quotes will bring up records that have either Marshall or Islands in the record, not necessarily both.
If you know the specific collection object number, you can also enter that into Quick Search to pull up its information. So if you’ve been checking out the collections featured in the Masterpieces of the Peabody Museum Online Exhibition and want to look up the museum record for the Tapa Cloth Figure from Rapa Nui, you can type the number from the image’s caption, 99-12-70/53543, right into Quick Search to find it.
In general, we recommend sticking with the Quick Search since it is easy to use and will capture the most materials. But, if you would like to focus your search on a specific collection type, such as photographs, click Search on the lefthand menu. This Advanced Search will allow you to combine different terms to find specific materials. The example below will show you all of the photographs from Samoa. It is worth noting that if you tried entering each of these combinations: samoa photo, samoa photograph, or samoa photographic, in the Quick Search instead, each of those will give you different results. So, the advanced search is best if you want to search for only photographs.
Search Terminology and Tips
1) Some of our records are out of date or use old place names and spellings.
2) Records may be inaccurate or incomplete.
Samoan bark cloth (siapo) Collected in Fiji, c. 1911. Gift of Dr. R. B. Dixon, 1912. © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, PM 12-31-70/84109
3) Most of our Oceanic collections currently are documented only in the English language.
Dohr, finely woven banana fiber sash from Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, pre-1895. Gift of the American Antiquarian Society, 1895. Image © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, PM 95-20-70/49298
Taumi, feather and shark tooth breastplate from Tahiti, mid-19th century. Gift of the Heirs of David Kimball, 1899. Image © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 99-12-70/53613
4) And many of our records don’t use the same terms throughout the database.
ʻIe toga, fine ceremonial mat from Samoa possibly used during the coronation of King Malietoa “Tami” March 23, 1899. Gift of Mrs. Eugene Wambaugh. Image © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, PM 36-75-70/343
Museums use catalog numbers to keep track of each individual collection piece. Each piece – whether an object, photograph, or historic letter – receives a unique number that is physically attached to the museum object and creates a link between it and its associated information (like location in storage, what it is, where it came from and how it was acquired). For the Harvard Oceanic Collections Engagement Fellowship, applicants are required to identify which specific collections they will work with, by catalog number.
You can find the catalog number, also known as the Peabody Number, online either in your collections search list (in the example below, we searched for “tapa beater”) or the individual collections page. In the below right example, the catalog number is 46-78-70/2443.