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Library of Congress Search: Making it Easier to Find and Use Primary Sources

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Library's main search box
Library’s main search box

If you’ve recently searched online for primary sources from the Library of Congress, you may have noticed an exciting change: the search from the Library’s home page now offers the option to narrow the results by format.  Try it out with a sample search on Bull Run, using the drop-down box to select “Map.”

Once you select one of the maps listed, you’ll see another change:  there is a new display page, or object page, being used for these maps.

Detail from Plan Of Bull Run
Detail from Plan Of Bull Run

It includes a new functionality that lets you zoom in on very fine details, drag the image to focus on different sections, and click a toggle button for a full screen view.  To check it out, click on “Enlarge” or click on the thumbnail of the map, and be sure to try rotating your mouse wheel.

In addition to the zoom functionality, there are handy new lists of related materials which will make it even easier to use primary sources in your teaching setting:

  • “Part of…” tells you what collections the item is in.
  • “More maps like this” is a selection of related primary sources in the same format – in this case, maps.
  • “You might also like” is a selection of related items in other formats.

By selecting the “Rights & Access” tab, you’ll find a link that goes directly to guidance for teachers and students on citing primary sources.

Initially, around 9,500 maps are being displayed in the new object page format, but additional collections of primary sources will be switched over in coming months.  For more information, see the Library’s recent blog post New and Improved.

Keep an eye out for future improvements to search functionality and results display.  Finding the resources you need will continue to get faster and easier.

We’d love to hear what you think of these changes, and how they can help you in the classroom.


  1. This is great – what a resource!

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