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Tips for Locating Records in the Texas Digital Archive

Navigation and Search Tips for the TDA

The Texas Digital Archive (TDA) provides multiple ways to access electronic records: Browsing, Searching, and Descriptive Guides.

  • Use the links under the “Collections” section on the home page or the MAIN COLLECTIONS drop-down menu to access descriptive information about collections and link to records in the TDA.
  • Browse the TDA holdings by using the “EXPLORE ARCHIVE” button at the top of the page.
  • Searching is available through the search bar at the top of each page.


Click on a link below to obtain tips on using each of these options:



Descriptive Guides


General information | Switching views | Facets on-the-fly

General information

To browse in the TDA, simply click on the “EXPLORE ARCHIVE” button on the left-hand side of the search toolbar (see Figure 1, below.) This will always take you from your current location to the Main Collections level of records held by the TDA. (Use the back button on your web browser if you need to return to previous location.)

Figure 1

From the Main Collections level, clicking on an icon or image will let you enter that Collection and show you its sub-divisions (see Figure 2, below.)

Figure 2

Continue clicking on the appropriate icons/images to open levels as you drill down into a Collection.

This icon is represents a large container, usually a Collection, holding other groups of records.

This icon  is smaller container of other objects.

Continue clicking on the icons if you wish to open the container.


For the Prints and Photographs Collections, you generally only need to go one or two levels down to see the records in that Collection.

For the records of Governor Rick Perry, or State Agencies, you will have to navigate through various offices and divisions, then to records series, and finally to the records themselves.

This icon represents an object or a single record and clicking the picture will open that record.


Switching views

The newest version of the TDA interface allows different views of the materials based on user preferences. The different views can be activated by clicking on the icons just above items, and to the right of the “Sort by” drop-down menu.

In order, from left to right, these are: List view, Table view, and Tile view. Each view option has its own benefits and drawbacks, users are encouraged to try the views for themselves and decide what best suits their needs. The system is generally set to default to Tile view, but will often remember the last used setting. If your screen size is less than a certain width (480 pixels), the view will automatically change to List view and you will not be able to toggle between view types.  A short summary of each view is given below.

List view (pictured above) provides individual boxes for items with a small thumbnail image of the item to the left and the title or filename of the item to right. There is only one item per line.

Table view (pictured above) provides individual boxes for items similar to List view but with significantly more information. There is only one item per line in the table. In order from left to right, the item information is: a thumbnail image, the title or filename, a description or parent collection name, and size of the file. This view is particularly useful for determining load time and availability for items.

Tile view (pictured above) provides individual boxes for items as tiles. There are six tiles per row, with each tile including a thumbnail image on the top half and the title or filename on bottom half. This was the only viewing option in the original version of the TDA. A specific drawback of this view is that a long title or filename may be cut off at the bottom of the tile.

Facets on the fly

When not viewing an item, you will notice that there is consistently a sidebar on the left side of the screen next to the selections. These are the on-the-fly facets. These facets take TSLAC-generated descriptive information for everything available at the level you are viewing and makes them clickable to narrow your view to just the items that match the term. See below for an explanation of how facets work.


Warning: On-the-fly facets will only be present where TSLAC custom created metadata is present or when viewing some item types. Some levels of browsing will have little or no on-the-fly facets as this type of information is not available at that level.


Browsing Neighboring materials

As of 2017-11-15 this function is no longer available.

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Faceting and Filtering Simple Searching Advanced Searching

This section provides you with information on how to perform a search. Basic searching information is provided first, followed by three main strategies for performing a search. Click on one of the links above to go directly to a strategy.

NOTE: The TDA system has some trouble with word matching in file names and text. See the Wildcards and Partial Word Matches section at the end of this section for details on how best to approach this issue.

of the TDA will generate results based on available descriptive information and full-text indexing. When digitizing records, TSLAC staff will ensure that our existing descriptive information is made available for searching and viewing. For born-digital records, it is not possible to provide full descriptions of the contents of every record; available descriptive information is almost always limited to details about the Collection a record is part of. Results based on full-text indexing can only occur on documents that were created with text-based programs; digitized type-written pages are generally not full-text searchable.

To conduct a search of the entire Archive, simply click in the search box at the top of any web page and enter your search terms.

If you are already within a Collection, Sub-Collection, Series, or Record level; then you can also search within only level and lower in the archive. A contextual search box will appear just above the items available at the level you are viewing. Click on the search box and type your search terms. The type of level you are viewing (collection or record) will appear on the search button to the right of the search box.

Once the search has been run, the results will show each level of the archive (based on your choice above) that has your specific search terms within its description. The highest level of results will be shown first, and any item level results will be shown last.

Faceting and Filtering

Regardless of how a search is conducted, the TDA will provide you with facets and filters upon which you can refine results. This is an excellent way to narrow a broad search down to a few items.


Facet options will always appear on the left side of the search results page. Facet options will have a check-box and the facet name.

Clicking on a facet will revise the results to items that match those criteria.  Facet options that no longer apply are not automatically removed from the list; to update the list to show only those options that still apply, you will need to refresh the page in your web browser.

PLEASE NOTE: Facets only apply based on additional descriptive information created by TSLAC. Only files digitized by TSLAC will have significant item-level descriptive information.


Filters are very similar to facets in that they search the additional descriptive information created by TSLAC. However, while facets provide exact search options, filters allow you to do free text searching of the addition descriptive information. The filterable fields are Title, Alternative Title, Series Title, Identifier, Collection Name, Arrangement, Citation, Collector, Contributor, Creator, Description, Filename, Format, Geographic Term, Subject Term, and Type.

To add a filter to your search, you MUST, have activated a search using one of the search bars (even if it is a “blank” search). In the results screen, click on the +Filter button to the right of the search bar.

The search bar will expand. Choose the information field to search on, by selecting a type in the left-hand drop-down menu. Enter your search term in the blank bar in the middle of this new line. If you want to add additional filters you may do so by clicking the blue add button. Press enter to activate the filter.

It is important to note that: (1) If the information exists but you enter it into a filter on the wrong field the results will not be correct; (2) case does not matter but text of a word does, if you do not know how a word ends add * after the last known letter and if you are not sure about spelling use ? instead of the possibly incorrect letter.

Simple Search

A simple search is done by typing one or more words in the search box. These words will not have a particular order within a description or full-text; and the results will include hits for both words, then each word individually. Preference is given to results with all of the search terms. Exact spelling is necessary. If exact spelling is unknown, use a wildcard search (see below.)

Advanced: Boolean Search

A Boolean search is a search using multiple terms that are connected using AND, OR or NOT. In a Boolean search, a connecting AND, OR or NOT must be used between each search term. If using a Boolean search:

  • Type an AND in capital letters to require the search to include only results that have both of the terms. For example: “Austin AND Houston” will pull results that have both terms.
  • Use OR in capital letters to include results that have one term or the other, but not both. For example: “Austin OR Houston” will pull results that have one or the other.
  • Using NOT in capital letters will exclude results with the term on the right of the not. For example if you were searching for the city of Houston, but didn’t want Sam Houston. Searching “Houston NOT Sam” will exclude “Sam” from the search.

Advanced: Phrase Search

A phrase search is used to search a set of words in the exact order they appear. A phrase search is done by typing a multiple word search with a quotation at the beginning and end of the set of words that must appear in order. In a phrase search, no other words can appear between the individual words in the phrase. For example: “Austin Texas” searches for both words together. “Austin AND Texas” searches for each word but not together.

Advanced: Wildcard Search

A wildcard search is used to search a term when you wish to have results include multiple spellings of a term or terms.

??? If you know the word you want but are unsure of the spelling, use a question mark (?) at the exact spot where you are unclear of the spelling. The search results will include all results with all letters available for that single spot. For example, using “m?ster” (as in searching for muster rolls) would return results for master, mister and muster.

In this type of search, the following rule applies: The ? must be used to replace exactly one (1) letter. Using a single ? for multiple unknown letters will not return the correct results.

*** If you want results for multiple versions/derivatives of a term, use a asterisk (*) at the end of term where spelling starts to vary. The results will include all results with the exact spelling up to the asterisk (*), and results with any additional letters after the exact spelling. For example, searching for “supervisor*” will return results for supervisor, supervisory and supervisoree.

Please note: An asterisk (*) wildcard can be used in the middle of a term to replace an undefined number of letters. This can include multiple words.

Wildcards and Partial Word Matches

The TDA is designed be able to search filenames, embedded or added descriptive information, and the full-text of documents when possible. It is very flexible in how this works (the underlying technology is Apache Solr), but there are some limitations. One of those limitations is that with filenames, as well as limited cases with full-text searching, it searches for the whole word and will not come up with a partial word match (a “-” and “_” will count as a space to start/end a word). Where this could be a problem is when a word is accidentally or intentionally joined with another word.

To circumvent this limitation, you must use wildcards to fill in the gaps (or lack of gaps). Using a preceding and trailing * will give results from the middle of a word. Adding a ? where a spelling if unclear is also good.

For example, if you are looking for the video 2010-11-10-Houston-TXWomensConference-Clip.mp4, searching for using the term “women” will not return what you are looking for. Searching for “women*” may yield better results, but still not what you need. The correct term to search on would be “*women*“. Activating the Format Group video facet would further refine the results.

Descriptive Guides


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The Descriptive Guides are webpage versions of the finding aids similar to what one would use in the Archives Reference room to locate records. These finding aids are copies of the official versions available on the Web at TARO (Texas Archival Resources Online).

By navigating through the descriptive guides, researchers will gain an understanding of the context of records, how they relate to an agency’s functions, and how these records relate to other records created by the agency. Finding aids also provide important historical information about the agency, the function (or scope) of the records as well as brief description of contents, the arrangement of the records, any restrictions on the records, and other important information for the researcher.

To access the descriptive guides, click on one of the Main Collections links on the TDA homepage.

Each of the Main Collections offers unique ways to access records. Governor Perry’s mainpage includes a full list of subdivisions of the Governor’s office with links to the descriptive guides available for those offices. The Prints and Photographs mainpage lets you access individual collections by clicking on a representative image from the collection. The Texas State Agencies mainpage lets you access records of individual agencies by clicking on the agency’s logo.

Once you have navigated to a descriptive guide for a specific set of records (due to the hierarchical nature of government, it may take several clicks to get to this level), you will see a description title and set of links to navigate the guide. Each guide is divided into several sections: Overview, Other Finding Aids, Arrangement/Organization, History, Scope and Contents, Restrictions, Related Materials, and Administrative Information. The links provide shortcuts to major sections of the guide. See Figure 7 below.

If the records covered in a descriptive guide have major subdivisions that need a separate description (referred to as a series/sub-series), links to separate pages describing only those materials will be provided in the Organization/Arrangement section.


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