The Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA) provides integrated access to descriptions and detailed inventories of thousands of primary resource collections maintained by archival units across the Smithsonian. SOVA searches the Smithsonian's finding aids, also sometimes called collection guides, that provide you with varying levels of descriptive detail about the collection such as creator, biographical or historical note, content (including digitized content), subjects, names, forms of materials, how the collection is arranged, the context in which the collection was created, related collections in individual repositories and across the Smithsonian, provenance, where the collection is housed, and how to access the collection.
At the SOVA homepage, enter your search term(s) into the search box (punctuation, case, and word order are ignored) and click on or press the Enter key.
A list of related collections will appear. The menu on the left side of the screen allows you to fine tune your search. Select the appropriate facet(s) you want to limit your search by:
You can tell if a collection has digitized content if it has a thumbnail image and the "Digital Content Available" message and icon.
In the center of the screen, you can see how many search results there are and navigate through pages quickly. Using the dropdown menu on the right side of the screen, you can also sort your results by either Relevancy or Title.
There are also tabs that display your results grouped in three ways:
The number of hits your query received is recorded in parentheses.
SOVA records include various levels of detail to help users navigate to specific parts of the collection. Each record includes an introductory Overview. Most collections will also have a Contents view, for browsing or searching.
To explore this collection, use either the links in the sidebar or the container inventory in the Contents. Digitized material is indicated with icons such as . You can explore within a specific collection using the Search Within Collection search box at the top of each record.
You can also download a PDF Finding Aid, which includes all contents and description.
A record overview provides information about the collection as a whole. The overview will often include administrative, biographical, and summary information.
Record overviews also include a section of Keywords. You can click on Keyword entries to find related content from other collections and Smithsonian archival repositories.
For each Keyword, you can also click to search our Smithsonian-wide Collections Search, which includes museum objects and other material. Links are also provided to external sites like OCLC's ArchiveGrid, to help you find content at other institutions, beyond the Smithsonian
The Content view includes a sidebar with a table of contents. Use the table of contents to navigate to various parts of the finding aid quickly.
Browse through a collection's contents by clicking on the series, file or item titles. The breadcrumb links at the center of the screen (outlined by the red box in the above image) indicate your location within the hierarchical structure of the finding aid. This navigational tool will update as you move deeper into the collection, and can be used to return to previous locations.
Icons will indicate the individual folders or items that have been digitized. You can view these digitized materials by clicking the folder or item title.
You can also search for digital material using the Search Within Collection search box at the top of each record. Click the "Digital Only" checkbox to filter your view to only material with digital content.