How to Search Europeana

Europeana provides access to millions of digitised cultural heritage objects. With so much data, it can be hard to find what you're looking for. Here are some tips on improving your search queries.

Help, I don't know what I'm looking for!

If you don’t have a specific search in mind, try exploring the collections by browsing through our Topics, Features and Stories pages. Check out our rich archive of blogs, galleries and exhibitions too.

Browse

All of our editorial contains direct links to digital cultural heritage objects. So if you see something you like, click on the attribution button (bottom right) to learn more about the object and go to its item page.

Refining searches

If you have a good idea of what you're looking for, input your query into the search bar. You can also refine your search further. The filters at the top of the search results page allow you to filter by specific collections, types of media, countries, and more.

For example, searching for 'Cats' gives many different results, after which you can use the filters to only get results for 'Cats in art from Sweden'.

Sort

See different views of your search results by toggling between 'grid view' and 'list view'. Grid view is great when you're browsing through visual content and you want to select items based on how they look. List view is better when you want to see the metadata of each item, or if what you're looking for isn't visual in nature.

I know exactly what I'm looking for

Even if you know what you're looking for, finding it may not be as easy as you'd hoped. The Europeana website presents objects in a multitude of different languages from dozens of countries, provided by thousands of cultural heritage institutions, each with their own ways of cataloguing and describing collections. To make things easier, use the following methods to create smarter search queries:

Contextualise your search query

If your search query is 'cats', you'll get results for the Dutch poet Jacob Cats, the Dutch painter Jacob Cats, and the feline mammals we call cats. To add context to your query, you can use the terms who, what, where, and when. This will instruct Europeana to look for your query in specific metadata fields. Using the query who:Cats will return results about or from people with 'Cats' in their name. what:Cats as a search term will return objects that have 'cats' as their subject, such as portraits of people called 'Cats' or paintings of felines. Other examples of contextual queries are where:Milan or when:19th Century.

For more information on which metadata fields are exactly used when querying with these aggregated fields, cfr. 'Aggregated Fields' in the Search API documentation.

Search for specific strings

Using quotation marks (both single and double quotes work) will only return items that match the specific phrase you used. Searching for 'Art Nouveau' will return objects that have Art Nouveau in their metadata, while searching without quotation marks will return objects that have either the word art or nouveau in their metadata.

You can use this in conjunction with other advanced search methods. Searching in an aggregated field for who: Pieter Brueghel will return objects about or from people called either Pieter or Brueghel, but who:'Pieter Brueghel' will return objects only about or from Pieter Brueghel.

If you are not sure of spelling, you can use wildcards such as * or ? These will work on all words, but not in the first letter of the word.

  • Wildcard - * - will find words with any number of letters in the place of the asterisk, for example ca*\ will find cat, cap, cane, cable, and canary.

  • Wildcard - ? - a single letter wildcard, for example ca?e will find cane, care, case etc.

  • You can use the tilde symbol - ~ - to find results with a similar spelling. For example, searching text~ will also include words like test, text, texts

Search using Booleans

To combine different search terms in different ways you can use the operators AND, OR and NOT.

Searching for Pieter AND Brueghel NOT Younger gives you results for Pieter Brueghel, excluding the word 'Younger', giving you mostly results about Pieter Brueghel the Elder. The operators need to be capitalised to be seen as Booleans, so NOT will be seen as the Boolean operator but not will search for the word 'not'.

  • AND - Finds results that contain all of the specified words - you can also use && or +. For example: salt AND pepper or salt && pepper or salt+pepper
  • OR - Finds results that contain at least one of the specified words - you can also use ||. For example: salt OR pepper or salt||pepper
  • NOT - Excludes results that contain the specified word - you can also use - (the minus symbol) or ! (the exclamation mark). For example salt NOT pepper or salt -pepper or salt!pepper

Use ( ) to group searches together logically, e.g. (salt AND pepper) AND cooking will search for objects that have the word cooking in its metadata as well as either the word salt or the word pepper.

You can combine Boolean operators to create advanced search queries. For example, if you want to search for objects related to the Olympic sporting events but you don't want objects related to Mount Olympus in Greece, you could search for olymp\ AND sport NOT (mountain OR mount)*. For more detailed information on advanced search, you can read the Europeana Search API documentation subheading on 'Query Syntax'.

Searching in time

Since the collections displayed on Europeana are from many different sources, the metadata can differ by organisation. Dates are often filled in by curators in different formats and are not standardised across all datasets. This means you'll often get more relevant objects if you try to catch multiple ways of writing a date in your search.

If you're looking for 16th century objects, it's worth formatting your search as follows: when:(16th OR ’16th Century’ OR 15xx OR 15?? OR 1501-1599)

Some objects do have standardised date formats. To search within those objects, you can use the following methods:

  • Use the YEAR operator, for example: YEAR:1910
  • Search in date ranges in between square brackets []. For example: YEAR:[1525 TO 1527]

The above examples assume you're searching for the date or date range that the object was created, or found, in. If you instead want to search based on the date an object was ingested or updated in the Europeana database, you can use the timestamp_created and timestamp_update fields. More information on this can be found in the Search API documentation under the subheading "Timestamp Search".

You can use the ’Can I use This?’ filter at the top of your search results to filter down into one of three categories of reusability. For more information on these reusability filters, take a look at this helpful page on reusability.

If you only want objects with a single specific rights statement, you can use the RIGHTS operator to do so. The RIGHTS operator needs the URL of a rights statement to work. For example, you can't use RIGHTS:In Copyright. Instead, you use the URL of the 'In Copyright' Rights Statement from rightsstatements.org. The correct search term would be RIGHTS:(http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/) Below are all the rights statements URLs you can use as a filter in your search query: