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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History



Ray and Lavallee with Weddell seals at the Palmer Peninsula, Antarctica

These are a few of the methods that we frequently use to search the field book records online.  Have you found any ways to search the records we haven’t included?  Or have you had any unexpected challenges that the tips above don’t address?  We’d love to hear from you so we can keep our list as useful and up to date as possible. 

Still have questions?  Please contact us at

Getting started


The Smithsonian’s Collection Search Center ( includes materials from across the institution dealing with art, culture, and the sciences.  These tips are designed to help you narrow your search to just content related to field notes.
The left-hand menu of SCSC’s website provides a lot of great options for navigating records by discipline, collector, or topic.  These categories often produce more accurate results than keyword searches.  For best results, go to the Cataloging Record Source and limit to “Field Book Registry.”

To the right is a snapshot of the categories for narrowing a search in Smithsonian Collection Search Center, and includes quick explanations of what to expect within each of the search categories. 

SCSC menu with highlighted categories


How do I limit my search to just Field Book Registry Records?


There are two ways.  Either use keyword search “unit_code:FBR” or select Cataloging Record SourceField Book Registry.”

How do I limit my search to just the field books (no collection, person, organization or expedition records)?

Limit the search category Type to “field notes.”

How do I limit my search to one natural history discipline?


If you select Topic, you’ll see that most disciplines are cataloged by their subject term (e.g. study of mammals is cataloged with “mammalogy”).  In the cases of botany and ornithology you will have more accurate search results if you select the Topic “plants” or “birds.”

How do I locate field books that are housed in one of the departments or divisions of the National Museum of Natural History? 


We catalog the physical location of both the collections and individual field books.  You can see this information when the catalog record is expanded.  To locate field books and collections in various departments use the following keyword searches in quotations.


How do I find the contact information for the Department or Division that houses the field book I’m interested in?


Expand the field book record that you’re interested in and about halfway down the record, you’ll see Access Information listed.  This will provide a phone number and email address where you can reach the department that holds that collection.


How do I limit my search to a type of record?


How do I limit my search to a type of record?  The Field Book Registry includes 5 types of records: (1) Collection records, (2) Item [or field book] records, (3) Personal Biographies, (4) Organization Histories; and (5) Expedition Histories.  To limit the search to just field books, select search category Type “field notes.” 
Other types of records can be selected by using the following keyword searches in quotations. 


How do I limit my search to digitized field books? 


This is a small but consistently growing segment of the field books led by the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA’s) Division of Digital Services and their awesome digitization staff.  To find all currently available digitized field books, select Online Media and limit to “Electronic Resource”.

What kind of information can I find with the search category “Type”?


This can give you a lot of information about the format of the field book.  Field books come in a wide variety of formats including videos, photographs, journals, diaries, and slides just to name a few.

How much location information is searchable through the search category “Place”? 

Field book records can include geographical information that ranges from the political boundaries like country level to town level or geological boundaries like mountain range, river, or island. These levels of specificity can be seen in the category Location.


How much information is available when limiting a search by “Date”? 


The Field Book Registry catalog records include a significant amount of date information.  Individual collectors have birth and death years, expedition records list beginning and end years.  Field book records often list the beginning and ending dates covered within a given item.  Limiting your search by date can be a great way to filter results.



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