Using the Collections

Scope of the Collections

College Women collects the documentation of students at the Seven Sisters colleges during their undergraduate years, prior to 1945, including letters, diaries, scrapbooks, photo albums, and journals. Decisions about included dates, materials, and authorship of the College Women collections were made to keep the collections narrow enough to encourage resonance between the materials.


The College Women metadata schema was developed using Qualified Dublin Core, chosen for its flexibility for mapping and common use across repositories. The different institutions all use adapted versions of standard metadata schemas, such as MODS, Dublin Core and VRA Core; metadata in our local schemas are mapped onto the College Women schema during ingest. Certain fields, such as Subjects and Date, are not standardized before inclusion in the site and may contain information in various formats.

The College Women project team also developed a custom metadata field called themes to better connect our materials curatorially and enable scholars and students to easily pull together related results. The themes describe commonly occurring broad subjects that emerge across the collections. Most items in College Women have been assigned one or more themes by their contributing institutions. Browsing by theme, or doing an advanced search including a theme, will not necessarily provide an inclusive set of results. Rather, themes are designed to provide examples of the kinds of materials found in our collections grouped by this list of subjects, and an additional avenue for searching and browsing. A full list of the themes and their definitions can be found here.

More technical background of the project and detailed information about the College Women metadata schema can be found in the project’s 2015 white paper, which will be updated at the end of the project’s second phase in April 2018.

Navigating the Collections

Starting Your Search

  • Simple search. The College Women homepage features a central search bar that performs a full-text search of the collections.
  • Advanced Search. Perform a keyword search or filter more precisely by Date, Format, Institution, or Theme using the Advanced Search option. Applied Format, Theme, and Institution parameters will appear at the top of the results page; subtract individual parameters by clicking on the X, or clear your search entirely by selecting Reset.

Search Precision

  • Exact phrase. Search for an exact phrase by placing it in quotes.
  • Boolean search. Search does not support Boolean operators (AND, OR, or NOT). A multi-keyword search without quotes will function like Boolean OR—results will be returned when ANY of the words in the string appear. For example, while “history class” will only return records containing that exact phrase, history class will find any records that contain either history OR class.
  • Wildcards and stemming. College Women allows automatic stemming via the Porter Stemming Algorithm, so a special wildcard character is not necessary. Example: a search for diaries will find both diary and diaries.

Browsing Search Results

  • Views. To change the way your search results appear, toggle between list and thumbnail views.
  • Sorting. By default, search results are listed alphabetically by title. You can change this display by clicking on the up/down arrows next to column headings to sort by Date, Format, or Institution.

Exporting Metadata

  • Researchers may find it useful to download metadata from College Women, either including the entire contents of the site or a bounded set of items. To export metadata from every item in the collections, scroll to the bottom of the Explore Collections page to find the orange bar under the page navigation tool that reads "CSV | TXT | JSON". Click on your preferred format to prompt the download. To export data from a limited set of items, narrow your results as desired by running an Advanced Search or using any of the filtration tools on the Explore Collections page, and then scroll to the bottom of the page to use the "CSV | TXT | JSON" download button as described above.

Learning More

  • Collection Guides. The Collection Guides field on the item page provides supplemental collection information, when available, such as finding aids and transcripts.
  • Home Repositories. To learn more about an item, you can click on the image on the item page to navigate away from the College Women portal to the home institutions’ repository, where there may be more contextual information provided. 
  • Contacting Institutions. To consult an expert on any item, or on the collections in general, you may contact the institutions' special collections archives. Contact information can be found on the About the Project page.

Other Resources

Site Blog

Partner institutions contribute content to our College Women blog. The blog highlights collections or documents within College Women, offering avenues for interpretation and analysis. Occasionally, the blog will provide and share commentary on scholarly resources such as bibliographies and related sites. We encourage you to use the blog as a place to learn more about the documents shared on College Women, and as a site to spur ideas for your scholarly inquiry or curricular development.

Partner Institutions

This project was initiated as a partnership across the Seven Sisters colleges. As an aggregator site, is a curated set of content from each of the participating partner institutions. To experience each of our digital collections in their entirety, please use the links below:

  • Barnard College logo
  • Bryn Mawr College logo
  • Mount Holyoke College logo
  • Radcliffe Institute logo
  • Smith College logo
  • Vassar College logo
  • Lorem