Researching the Collection Online for Students

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Researching the Collection Online for Students

How do I find stuff?

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has a number of Catalogs & Research Tools to help students find the sources they need.  Follow the links below to use different online tools to explore the collection.






Discover is our main electronic catalog. This is where you will do most of your online research. It doesn’t contain everything HSP owns, but it is a great place to begin.  
  • You can search Discover by subject, author and title. You also may enter keywords, search alphabetically or browse.
  • Once you reach the results list, you can narrow a search by date, author, region or type of material.
  • When you click on an item, you can text, email or bookmark the record. Click on “cite it” to get the bibliographic citation in APA or MLA format.
  • You will need to come into HSP to examine the items you find in Discover.


Digital Library

The Digital Library is full of what we call “images” or high-tech digital pictures of documents, books, and other things such as maps, paintings or photographs. The Digital Library doesn’t have even close to the number of items in Discover, though more are getting added each day.
  • You may search the Digital Library from its home page.
  • You can click on each result and view the image and the details about it. Some results may have multiple pages/images that you can scroll through.
  • To see the document in more detail, click on “Zoom +” under the image.


Subject guides

Subject guides are lists of materials available on a particular subject. Subjects can be as broad "African American" or as narrow as "Women During the Civil War." Each guide gives some background information about the topic and then lists collections at HSP that have material on that subject. Click here to browse HSP’s collection of subject guides.



Finding aids

Since manuscript collections can contain so many different items, a finding aid is a document that has been created to tell you exactly what is in a manuscript collection. It also gives background information about the person or organization. Many of them are online, and even more are available in the library. Click here to browse HSP’s online finding aids.



When you search the HSP website from the “Search” box on the upper right of each page, you automatically will search all HSP online exhibits, blogs and subject guides and other pages on the HSP website that might be relevant.
Check "Collections" for a search in Discover. 


Journal search

HSP publishes two journals: Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, and Pennsylvania Legacies. PMHB publishes history related research articles. Legacies, a semi-annual illustrated history magazine, explores a variety of topics in Pennsylvania history for the curious reader. You can search the articles in these journals by entering your search term in the “Search” box on the upper right of each page. When you enter a keyword, a drop down box appears and you can click “HSP Journals”



This guide to researching online was created by 2014 Teaching Fellow, Elissa Goldberg and adapted by 2015 Education Intern, Beth Potens.