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Using Item Records to Explore Interesting Research Rabbit Holes

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This post is by Jen Reidel, 2019-20 Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.

The Library of Congress has more than 168 million items in its collections—and millions have been digitized and are available on the Library’s website at Every digitized item is accompanied by an item record that can be a valuable research tool. Using specific links from the record may lead you and your students down some interesting and unexpected research rabbit holes.

Typically, an item record includes an image of the item. Directly below the image is its title, a summary,  contributors’ names, date of publication, rights and access information, citation information, and suggestions for more items. In addition, the right side of the item record provides links to additional information related to the item including possibly its lot grouping, contributors, and related subjects. The contributor link will display other items produced by the same person. Subject headings offer the ability to find additional items connected to the highlighted item on the displayed page. Exploring these links can yield broader search results for students and teachers and suggest additional research paths.

Nursery rhymes for infant industries. An alphabet of joyous trusts–no. 5 . Frederick Opper, 1902

Nursery rhymes for infant industries.

For example, to find additional information relating to “Nursery rhymes for infant industries. An alphabet of joyous trusts–no. 5/F. Opper,” look on the right side of the page. Under “Part of,” locate and click on the item’s lot. For Joyous Trusts No. 5…,the lot record indicates it is part of a group of nine additional items which includes an image from Frederick Opper’s series “Willie and Papa” as well as two political cartoons from his anti-trust images. As a variation on the lot search strategy, you may want to compare other illustrations by Frederick Opper to his work within the “Nursery Rhymes for infant industries: an alphabet of joyous trusts” series. To do so, find the contributor link and click on Opper, Frederick Burr. Doing so yields 192 additional images by Frederick Opper available online at the Library of Congress. Lastly, consider researching related terms under subjects. “Subjects” includes the subject heading Industrial Trusts, and selecting that link offers 193 additional items for research.

While these strategies take some time, curiosity, and creative thinking, they offer students and teachers the ability to broaden the scope and depth of research, resulting in interesting and sometimes surprising discoveries within Library of Congress collections.

Comments (2)

  1. Thanks

  2. This is essentially what I learned to do using the card catalog in my elementary school library in the 1960s, although doing it online is certainly more efficient! Getting lost in catalog records was, and is, one of my favorite past-times. I can imagine a classroom of students, working alone or in small groups, delightedly sharing their “finds” with one another.

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