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Tips for searching on Collections Online

How to search

Enter your search term into the search box. This will search across all our collections, people, places, categories, scientific classification, topics, and publications.

The search engine uses key data fields and links to find results that may match what you’re looking for. A quality score is then applied to bring the most relevant results to the top. If you sometimes wonder why a result has been included, it’s likely the influence of related things such as people, places, or taxonomy.

Tips for getting useful results

  • Be specific with your search terms.
  • Add more terms, one at a time, if you’re not finding what you’re looking for.
  • Use quotation marks when searching using a registration or reference number. For example, search for "C.013176" to retrieve a record with this registration number.


Experiment with the filters on the left-hand side of the results page, to narrow down the results in different ways. Try Collection, Type or Image availability. We’re working on more filters (watch this space!)

Some really common terms may provide too many results, e.g. New Zealand, bird, fern, kiwi, or anything we have a lot of in the museum collection.

You can apply image filters to limit results to see only things that have an image or only those that have a downloadable image.

We’re constantly adding more images, so do check back from time to time if there’s something you want to see.

You can also use quote marks and Boolean operators:

  • "Colin McCahon" will find records containing that exact phrase (narrows your search)
  • edmund AND hillary will find records with both of those words (whether as an exact match to Edmund Hillary or not)
  • haliotis NOT jacnensis (or haliotis -jacnensis) will find anything from the genus Haliotis, but will exclude any of the species jacnensis from the results (allows great precision)


Wildcards can also be helpful when you’re not sure of spelling, or can’t quite remember the right word. There are two wildcards available:

1. A question mark can replace one character anywhere in your search terms.

For example, bra?n will find brain, braun, brawn and any other results that have any letter in place of the ?

2. An asterisk can be used to replace more than one character anywhere in your search terms.

For example, post* will find poster, postpositum, postelliana, postvittana, and much much more.