Labor Archives of Washington


Tips for Searching the University of Washington's Digital Collections

The search box below is for the UW Libraries Digital Collections. You can search for additional material in the ResearchWorks archive.


The above search box can be used to search all of the UW's Digital Collections.

Advanced Search

You may also choose to construct a more advanced search using the Advanced Search page. Below, you will find a number of searching tips from our staff which may help you find what you're looking for more easily.

We'll use the words women workers as an example.

  • Placing women workers in the "all of these words" box will search for records that have both women and workers as keywords at some point.
  • Women workers in the "exact phrase" box will restrict your search to only records where women appears immediately before workers.
  • Women workers in the "any of these words" box will return any records that contain either women or workers (or both) as keywords.
  • Lastly, women workers in the "none of these words" box will exclude from your search results any records that contain either women or workers (or both) as keywords.

The wildcard character is the asterisk * -- for example,if you wanted to search for the phrases women workers and women working, a search for women work* would yield both results. The asterisk only works when it is placed at the end of a word.

Searching using Library of Congress subject headings

We use the Library of Congress (LC) subject headings to catalog the documents and images available on Digital Collections. Searches that use LC terminology are therefore usually more successful. Documents relating to the organized labor movement are usually listed under one of three headings: labor unions, labor leaders, or labor movement. The words worker, laborer, and employee are often substituted for each other, so try searches using each one to be certain you don't miss anything.

For your benefit, here are LC subject headings commonly used for traditional occupations in the Pacific Northwest:

  • agricultural laborer or fruit trade (farming),
  • cannery workers or fisheries or fishermen or seining (fishing/canneries),
  • loggers or lumber camps or lumber industry or lumber trade (logging),
  • coal trade or miners or mining (mining).

When searching for images or documents relating to workers from specific ethnic or demographic groups, the following tips may be useful.

  • You will want to combine a search phrase (like cannery workers) with a word or phrase identifying the group.
  • Some groups are referred to by multiple names depending on the time period: for example, African- American workers may be labeled African-American, African American, or Afro-American.
  • Asian-American is not commonly used, but when searching for a specific East Asian group (such as Chinese workers or Japanese workers), using Asian as an alternative to the group name may yield additional results.
  • While we have often used Native American in our titles and notes, the phrase Indians of North America is also often used as a subject heading, as are the specific tribal names.
  • Adding women in the "all of these words" search box is normally sufficient to restrict your search to images of female workers.

Searches for photographs

One way to successfully narrow your search to photographs is to type the word text in the "none of these words" searchbox—all printed documents are labeled as "text" and should then be excluded from the search results. (Alternatively, placing image in "none of these words" will restrict a search to only textual documents.)

Another approach is to envision what might things might be visible in the photograph you're seeking, and to search form elements other than what you're specifically looking for. For example, if you're looking for an image of a Northwest fisherman, but the results from searches for fishermen, fisheries, etc., aren't getting you what you want, try words like salmon, cod, nets, rowboats, etc.

If you're looking for images of "people at work", or images that depict working conditions in a particular industry and era, some collections are likely to be more useful than others. Many such photographs are available through the Industries and Occupations Photographs—that collection's home page offers many sample searches that target specific working environments. For images of the fishing industry, the best collection to start with is the John N. Cobb Photographs, and for logging, we suggest starting with the Clark Kinsey Photographs. You may also wish to browse our list of collections to identify other potential sources.

Searching for graphical materials (other than photographs)

The U.W.'s Digital Collections contain many printed graphics on a variety of topics related to labor. To search effectively for them, it's best to use the vocabulary terms we use to classify these materials.

  • Ephemera is a broad term that refers to printed material that was intended for distribution over a short time.
  • Poster and letterhead are terms that may also yield some interesting visuals.
  • The covers of small pamphlets are often of interest—the word pamphlet is sometimes used, but for non-bound materials the words broadside and flier (unfolded) and leaflet (folded) are more common.
  • Charter will bring up the often ornate union charters we have scanned.

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