Library: Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I visit your Library? Museum?

    The Disability History Museum and Library are digital environments and therefore only accessible online. For the physical location of particular items found in our collections, please refer to the Source field on the item description page.

  2. What is in your collections?

    The Library contains materials on the history of disability in the United States from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. These materials are divided into a Visual Stills Collection and a Documents Collection, and are cataloged to make the materials accessible, searchable, and sortable. When you conduct a Library Search without selecting "Visual Stills" or "Documents," you will search both categories of materials. If you wish to explore only documents or visuals stills, choose the appropriate collection from the drop-down menu under "Filter." A Browse by Collection is also available by selecting the desired collection from the appropriate drop-down list.

  3. How do I search through collections?

    From the Search Collections page, enter key words (further described below) suitable to the types of materials appropriate to your research. We provide a Keyword List that shows what terms we have used to describe the materials in the collections. For example, if you enter "deaf, schools, sign language" as keywords, you will find any materials associated with schools for the deaf that taught sign language.

  4. What can I do with an Advanced Search?

    An Advanced Search allows you to look for materials based on Keywords as well as Sources, Formats, and Dates. You do not have to fill all those fields to do an Advanced Search.

  5. What are keywords? How can I use them to find what I want?

    Keywords are searchable terms which we believe best describe aspects of a document or visual still. Common variants, including plural forms of words, as well as the varying forms of proper nouns are coded within single standardized keywords. For example, searching "Franklin Delano Roosevelt" or "FDR" will provide the same results. Please refer to our Keyword List to aid you in your searches.

  6. How do I browse through collections?

    The Browse Collections page offers a guided search through Topics and Sub-topics found amongst library materials. Sub-topics further define the Topics and therefore are to be selected only after a Topic is chosen. Please note that Topics and Sub-Topics encompass most but not all of the materials available through the library, and should be understood as an introduction to our resources. For searches on precise subjects, please consult our Keyword List for specific terms to use through our Search Collections page.

  7. What does the site search do?

    The Site Search box, found at the top right of each page, allows you to find a specific word or phrase anywhere in the Disability History Museum site. Results may come from the Library, Museum, and/or Education portions of the site.

  8. How can I manipulate/sort my search results?

    By default, the results page is ordered alphabetically by title. However, you may order your results list by date, format, or collection by clicking on the corresponding heading found at the top of your results list. Ordering by date will order your results with the oldest documents first.

  9. What issues of language arise from the historical study of disability?

    The use of language, or nomenclature, to describe disability has changed tremendously over the past two centuries. Some of the past usages are offensive and degrading and should be avoided in contemporary language. In cataloging historical materials, however, these terms are essential to recover past experiences and ideologies. Therefore, historical terms that would otherwise not be used today, do sometimes appear as a cataloged keyword. Historical terms apply only to the period in which an artifact was created and will not be used for artifacts created after that usage has gone into deserved oblivion.

    How can I contact you?

    Mailing Address:
    Disability History Museum
    Box 395, Conway, MA 01341


    (413) 369-4372

    Your comments and suggestions are welcome.