How To Search

If you’d like to browse items about a broad topic and search the entire library, use the ScholarSearch feature on the library home page ( Use the links on the left sidebar to narrow your results according to your interest (by time period, author, location in the library, etc.). Special Collections items are listed in this catalog (with very few exceptions).

Steps to view a Finding Aid

Finding aids list the contents of larger manuscript collections to help you find the particular item you’re looking for. You can then use these box and folder numbers to specify the item you would like to see from our closed stacks. Not all collections have finding aids. In the absence of a finding aid, you will need to allot time to look through all boxes in the collection if they are not arranged in an order that will allow us to quickly locate the item you need.

Begin at the library’s homepage (

  • If you already know the call number for the manuscript (in the form MSS # or MSS SC #), enter it in the ScholarSearch box and click “Search.” The item should be the first result on the page that comes up. Click the green “Online Access (GetIt)” to view the online register.
  • If you know the author of the collection, enter the name in the ScholarSearch box. The correct result may be near the top, or you may have to sort through several pages of material. You can narrow the results by selecting “HBLL Special Collections Library” on the left sidebar if you are only interested in items from the Special Collections.
  • Alternately, you can search for a register using the Special Collections website. Click on “Special Collections” under “Unique Collections at BYU” on the library home page. Enter the author or call number in the box labeled “Manuscript Search” on the lower right side of the page. To view the finding aid, click on the title of the collection and then click “Access this item” at the top of the page. This method should work even if the ScholarSearch method tells you that you need to log in with a BYU ID and password.
  • If you would prefer to search using the library catalog, select “Library Catalog” under the “Unique Collections at BYU” heading on the home page. You can limit the search to Special Collections items by choosing “HBLL Special Collections” under the library heading. If you already know the item’s exact title or the name of a specific author, use the Alphabetic Search feature
  • Advanced keyword search can be used to find more specific items. You can limit the search to manuscripts by changing the location to “Manuscript Collection – 1130 HBLL.” The “Search All” feature is useful when you want to find the search term anywhere on the bibliographic record. You can fill in as many criteria as you’d like to limit your search (This is particularly helpful when you are searching for an item that will return many results, like a search for “Joseph Smith.”). Once you’ve found a manuscript item, click “Details” on the result you would like to view. If an online register exists, there will be a link under “Elec Version (HTTP).” Select “Click here to view finding aid” to access the register.

Folklore Items

Student folklore projects:

  2. Click on “Library Catalog” under “Unique Collections at BYU”
  3. Click the blue “Advanced Keyword Search” text
  4. In the box next to the drop down menu labeled “genre/form,” type “folklore”
  5. Select “HBLL Special Collections” from the drop down menu next to “library:”
  6. Type desired folklore subject into the “Search All” box
  7. Click “Search”

Steps to find individual folklore items:

  2. Click on “Special Collections” under “Unique Collections at BYU”
  3. Click on the “World History & Culture” link on the left side of the page
  4. Click on “Folklore (William A. Wilson Folklore Archives)”
  5. Click on “Guides”
  6. Use the .pdf file for each folklore area to find the desired topic. The “find” feature of Adobe Acrobat may be helpful, but these descriptions are brief and may not include your keyword. Browsing the document is frequently the best way to find a desired folder.
  7. When recording the call number for these items on a call slip, please obtain the FA collection number from the reference desk. This number (e.g. FA 2, FA 14) is then followed by the number for the individual folder, which is found in the alphabetically labeled columns on the left side of the .pdf pages. The numbers in each column should be separated by a period to avoid confusion (e.g. is different from

To Find Digitized Items

Begin at the library home page (
Click on “Digital Collections” under “Unique Collections at BYU”

“Overland Trails” (pioneer trek) diaries

  1. Click on the “Western History” link under “Collections by Subject”
  2. Click on “Overland Trails” on the alphabetic list of links that appears
  3. Click the “Search” button at the top of the page to

Missionary Diaries
**Note: This webpage sometimes has difficulty opening the page scans when Firefox is used as the web browser. We recommend using Internet Explorer or Safari instead, where possible.

  1. Click on the “LDS Religion & Church History” link under “Collections by Subject”
  2. The “Mormon Missionary Diaries” page will allow you to browse by geography, diarist, or mission or to search the diaries by diarist, date, subject, geography, mission, or gender.
  3. All of these diaries have been transcribed. Once the desired diary has been located, click on the diarist’s name to open the diary’s page. To view the transcription that accompanies each page’s scan, change the drop down menu next to “View” (on the upper left side) to “page and text” and click “go.”

(You can still move between pages by clicking the “previous” and “next” buttons in the upper right corner of the new window.)


  1. If the desired collection is already known, use the “Photograph” link under “Collections By Format” on the right side of the page to find the appropriate photographer or subject collection.
  2. If you would like to search all of the photograph collections, click on the “Advanced Search” tab under “Search the Collections.” Select “Photographs” from the “Formats” list, and enter a term in the search box. Click “Search.”
  3. Click on any title or thumbnail image to view the full description and a larger image. You may click on any of the linked text under the photograph image to search the collections for more photo descriptions containing those subject terms.
  4. These images are low resolution digital copies provided for your reference. If you would like to order a higher resolution image file for personal use or publication, please contact the Special Collections reference desk at (801) 422-3175.

Early LDS publications

  1. Click on “Mormon Publications: 18th and 19th Centuries” on the Text Collection menu.
  2. Click on a letter to find publications by title, or use the search box on the left.

Last Modified: September 3, 2014

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