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The Greatness of the Grid: Displaying Search Results en Masse

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The ability to select how I will view a hefty set of search results in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog is one of the features I love about the catalog. There are three choices: List, Gallery, and Grid, offered at the upper right of the search results page.

The default view is List view. If my results are a mix of digitized and undigitized images, or I’m trying to spot a piece of information such as the date that appears in a consistent position in list view, or I’m just too lazy to change views (because sometimes I’m just that lazy, even though the other views are a click away!), List view it is.

Screenshot of search result, showing display choices.
Search results for Labor hearings, defaulting to List view.

Gallery view offers me images first, with a portion of the title, and since I’m often looking for something for which some identification is needed, I will frequently select that view.

Screenshot showing search results with images and captions underneath.
Search result for women suffrage demonstrations, shown in Gallery view.

But Grid view, which shows 100 images at a time in smaller squares, without titles, has many virtues–some of them practical, and others more whimsical.

Reference staff are often in the position of helping researchers locate an image that they have already found elsewhere. Grid view can be handy when the content of the image is distinctive enough, and the search to find it broad enough, that there are many, many images to look through and it would be possible to pick the right one out of the crowd.

Screenshot showing grid view including sculptures, including Paul Bunyan statue.
Search results for Roadside America New York State.

Do keep in mind, however, that in reducing the often rectangular images to a square, elements are left out. Paul Bunyan is pretty recognizable in this grid view image, but there’s more to him! Selecting a given image in the grid will take you the fuller image with its description.


Screenshot of section showing full image and description.
Section of the catalog record and thumbnail image for the Paul Bunyan sculpture in the John Margolies Roadside America collection.

In each Prints & Photographs Online Catalog search page for a collection or category that you select from the home page, the “view all” option under the search bar will take you to the grid view.

Screenshot of search blank with a View All link underneath.
Link for the “View All” option in Fine Prints collection search page.

The results can be a little disappointing when the collection is not digitized, but when the digital content is more prevalent, it’s a way to get acquainted with the range of material in the collection, to get a sense of how much is digitized, how much is in color, etc. And you can always select, after the fact, to use one of the filters “Larger image available anywhere” or “Larger image available only at the Library of Congress” to assess what you want to look at and download without coming to the Library of Congress buildings, and what you may eventually want to look at if you can make a visit.

Screenshot showing digitized images and filtering options above them.
Search results returned when selecting “View All” from the Fine Prints search page, with filtering options at the top.

The grid view is also a great way to review many images quickly when you’re looking for a particular trait, especially color. This has come in very handy as I continue to uphold a staff tradition to honor “Purple Thursday.” When we work on site together, we tend to scour our wardrobes for a purple garment in honor of the day. While we have been working separately in the past year, long about Wednesday night, I’m thinking of purplish search terms or trying color-filled collections to see what purple turns up. (I mentioned whimsy, right?)

Screenshot showing images that include some violet-hued elements.
Search result for the word violet shown in grid view.

Sometimes a topic search leads to reflections about how a concentration of images capture a reality we don’t necessarily notice day to day.  Looking for gas facilities in the Margolies Roadside America collection made me realize how much roadside architects used red to visually draw the eyes of passers-by.

Screenshot showing grid of pictures, several featuring red trim or elements.
A section of the search results for the words gas Roadside America.

I also love some of the echoing images and interesting juxtapositions that turn up, sometimes almost accidentally, in displaying search results in grid view. At the risk of making you feel as though you’re doing an online security verification exercise, do you spot the hands (and almost hands) in this result?

Screenshot showing small images.
Search result for California (but not the coast!) in the Carol M. Highsmith Collection.

And then there’s the sheer pleasure of sitting back and watching the patterns go by. Viewing “World’s Fair” results from the Gottscho-Schleisner photograph collection made me appreciate how much spheres and curves were part of the visual experience of the 1939 World’s Fair.

Screenshot showing search results, with several spheres and curved structures evident.
Search results for World’s Fair in the Gottscho-Scheisner Collection.

And this page of results from the Korab Collection, similarly full of shapes and curves, made me more curious about architectural photographer Balthazar Korab’s aesthetic instincts and clients.

Screenshot showing grid of pictures depicting various structures in color, with many curves.
Section of the search results for “View All” in the Korab Collection.

Grid view results, juxtaposing colors, tonalities, and shapes, can also inspire me with thoughts about arranging tiles in a backsplash or squares in a quilt (can you tell I’ve spent some time watching home improvement and craft shows?).

No doubt about it, the grid view can be a time saver and provide a feast for the eyes with just that one more click!

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  1. Thanks for this blog/info….this will help a lot.

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