Tips for searching on Collections Online

On this page:

How should I start searching?

Enter a couple of words

Choose 2-5 key words about what you are looking for and enter them into the search box. This will search across all our collections, people, places, categories, scientific classification, topics, and publications.

The search engine looks in data fields and related links to find results that may match your search terms, then brings the most relevant results to the top.

You may need to adjust your search a little to find what you want. For example, you might choose some filters (see below) or change some of your search terms and run your query again (see: I can’t find what I want).

Use filters

Experiment with the filters on the left-hand side of the results page, to narrow down your results in different ways. You can select one filter in each group, or unselect it to select a different option in the group.

Filters are a quick way to reduce the number if you have used common terms that provide too many results, for example, New Zealand, bird, fern, kiwi, or anything we have a lot of in the museum collections.

Apply an image filter to show only things that have an image, or only those that have a downloadable image.

Browse related records

Searching isn't the only way to find records of interest; our cataloguers and curators have set up links between records so you can follow trails around our collections (you can view the types of links made in the related records map below). Follow the links at the bottom of each page to broaden your research and find related information:

1. Tree hierarchy - links to items on branches further up/down the tree, for items that are part of another item

2. Related content - relevant items selected by our cataloguers and curators

3. Explore more information - links to a page for each person, category, etc. containing a description and further links to related content

4. Related links - links to relevant pages on the Web

Related records map

This map shows how our curators link records together, which you can use to follow your own trail.

For example: from the 'Object' Jockey jacket made by NZ Racing Wear, to the 'Person' record about the horse Phar Lap, to the 'Specimen' of Phar Lap's skeleton, to a 'Topic' page containing a timelapse video of the skeleton's reconstruction, or to the 'Place' Timaru to find other collection items related to Timaru.

I can’t find what I want

I find too many things

  • Choose one of the filters on the left to automatically narrow your search - see filters above

  • Be more specific with your search terms. For example, instead of clothing, try shirt

  • Add more terms, one at a time. For example, instead of cloak, try feather cloak

  • Add search operators to make your search more specific - see search operators below

I don’t find enough things, or none at all

  • Check your spelling - if you are not sure you could try using wildcards

  • Be more general with your search terms. For example, instead of kitten, try cat

If you still don't find enough, or any, results after trying these tips, it is possible that there is nothing in Te Papa's collections that matches your search. You could try searching DigitalNZ.

I find wrong or unrelated things

The right things might be there, but are not at the top of the search results.

If you sometimes wonder why a result has been included, it’s likely the influence of related things such as people, places, or taxonomy.

  • Add more terms, one at a time, to narrow your search (to bring the right things to the top of your results). For example, instead of cloak, try feather cloak

  • brelated links - choose a record that is right, view it, then scroll down to see its related objects and related links - see browse related records above

  • Add search operators to make your search more specific – see search operators below

  • Ask us if we have collection items that you are looking for – contact Te Papa

I don't find images

  • Before you search: check the 'With images' or 'With downloadable images' checkbox

  • After you search: choose one of the 'Image reuse' filters on the left

  • Many collection items do not have images - read more about why don’t all collection items have images?

How do I refine my search using operators?

Using Boolean operators – to be more specific

Find records with at least one of these words (this is the default search, the 'OR' is optional)

kauri table

kauri OR table

Find records with both of these words (whether they exactly match "kauri table" or not) - this narrows your search

kauri AND table

Find records containing this exact phrase - this narrows your search further

"kauri table"

Find anything from the genus Haliotis, but exclude any of the species Jacnensis from the results - this allows greater precision

haliotis NOT jacnensis

haliotis -jacnensis

Find records about painting that mention Charles Blomfield or John Hoyte, but exclude any that mention Auckland

(painting AND ("charles blomfield" OR "john hoyte")) NOT auckland

Using wildcards - for different spellings

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

An asterisk can be used to replace more than one character anywhere in your search terms. For example, to find poster, postpositum, postelliana, postvittana, and much much more:


A question mark can replace one character anywhere in your search terms. For example, to find brain, braun, brawn, or any other letter in place of the ? :


Using fields - to be more specific

Find records with these words in the title field, using appropriate Boolean operators


title:(kauri OR table)

title:(kauri AND table)

title:"kauri table"

Common search field names

  • title

  • type - note that case is important, e.g. Specimen not specimen

  • collection - note that case is important, e.g. LandMammals not landmammals, only returns Object, Specimen, Topic, or Publication records

  • birthPlace - only returns Person records

  • deathPlace - only returns Person records

  • genus - note that case is important, e.g. Equus not equus, only returns Taxon records

  • subgenus - note that case is important, only returns Taxon records

  • species - note that case is important, only returns Taxon records

  • subspecies - note that case is important, only returns Taxon records

  • _meta.created - use ISO 8601 dates, e.g. 2016-12-31

  • _meta.modified - use ISO 8601 dates

  • identifier - registration number, note that case is important

  • id - internal reference number

Currently it is impossible to limit searches to maker, identification, materials, etc. fields. Instead use general AND Boolean searches.

Specialist searching


Find records with this Te Papa registration number, or are related to the record with this registration number


Find the single record with this Te Papa registration number


Find records with this internal reference number (of any type/module)


Find the Taxon record with this internal reference number

id:64994 AND type:Taxon


Find photography collection records created after this date

_meta.created:>2017-03-31 AND type:Object AND collection:Photography

Find collection items with images over 20,000 pixels wide

hasRepresentation.width:>20000 AND additionalType:PhysicalObject

Find Person records with internal reference numbers in this range

id:[400 TO 500] AND type:Person

Empty search to retrieve all records

Query on just an asterisk * to retrieve all records.

Advanced Elasticsearch queries

Collections Online is powered by Elasticsearch, so most of its query syntax is supported - see the Elasticsearch query string syntax guide.