Using catalogues

Catalogues let you search collections from cultural institutions like libraries and museums.

Search engines like Google only search websites - they don't index millions of resources in cultural collections around the world so unless you go directly to catalogues, you won't find them.

For example, the State Library Victoria catalogue has over
300 000 digitised historic images available for free online - and you can't find them with Google.

Catalogues aren't quite as 'smart' as search engines - they don't correct your spelling or know what you're looking for before you type it in. But with a little thought, online catalogues can be a treasure trove of unique primary sources.

State Library Victoria

The State Library Victoria online catalogue is similar to other catalogues and databases. When searching library collections, it's important to understand how key words work.

Think about the information you hope to find, what you already know about the topic and questions you'd like to answer. By taking the time to think about your topic before you start searching, you'll come up with better search terms and results.

Libraries and museums will also have FAQs and guides to help you search their catalogues, like SLV's Using our catalogue page.

The Library's Search Centre is another great resource to help navigate the range of search options available to you. Just like when you search in a web browser like Google, the catalogue allows you to refine your search to help you find exactly what you are looking for.


If you're after an image, you can explore the Library’s digital image pool which limits your search to out of copyright images. It's also worth searching the whole catalogue because as students, you're able to use any image for educational purposes as long as you acknowledge your source.

Research guides

Research guides are written by librarians to help researchers find and use library and external resources based on a research task, topic, or collection. Here are a few useful examples:

Resources in catalogues are often difficult to find because they're not indexed by search engines.

With some basic search strategies and understanding of where you can find relevant cultural collections, catalogues will help you find unique sources for your work.

Search engines like Google don't search online collections so it's important to include library catalogues in your research.