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Frequently Asked Questions

Calisphere brings together thousands of digital images, documents, audio and video recordings from the University of California and other educational and cultural heritage institutions across the state.

Below are some frequently asked questions about finding, using, and obtaining more information about these materials.

What are my options for finding content in Calisphere?

Currently Calisphere offers three main ways into the collections:

  • Search: Find items and related collections using keyword searches. See below for search tips.
  • Browse by institution: Explore the libraries, archives, and museums that have contributed collections to Calisphere. View all University of California contributors and our statewide partners.
  • Browse by collection: Collections are groups of items related by format, topic, or creator. They provide context for materials. Browse collections at random, from A-Z, or with a title search.

Do you have any search tips?

Yes indeed.

  • Exact phrase: To find items with an exact phrase, use quotes [" "] around your keyword phrase. For example: "sierra buttes" or "Malcolm X."
  • Truncation: An asterisk [*] can be used as a wildcard to replace one or many characters. For example: farm* will retrieve farm, farmers, farming, farmhouse, farmers' market, etc.
  • Boolean search: Our search does not support Boolean operators (and, or, not). However, entering a multiple keyword search will work like Boolean and. Results will be returned only when all of the keywords appear. For example: sierra mining will retrieve items with both sierra and mining.
  • Filters: Use filters on item type (format), decade, contributing institution, and collection to further refine a search and drill down into items of interest. If you are using a desktop or laptop monitor, your search results will automatically refresh when you use the filters.
  • Sort: Organize your search results according to what’s important to you. Sort by relevance (the prevalence of your search terms in item information), title alphabetically and reverse, or date.
  • Views: Change the view of your results to suit your research style. The thumbnail view (default) lets you see a lot of items at once. Toggle the list view to see bigger images and more information. Your search results will also display at the top of the item you select.

When I do a search in Calisphere, I get different results than I used to. What's going on?

When we redesigned Calisphere in fall 2015, we changed its appearance, its functionality, and its underlying infrastructure -- all of which made it bigger, faster, and easier to use. We've made every effort to ensure your experience remains consistent between the old and new systems. But no technical transition is perfect.

A known gap between the two sites is the availability of a defined group of approximately 13,000 texts. We are working on bringing these over into the new site, but in the meantime they will not be accessible through this interface. We are continuing to host these texts on our old platform. They can be accessed via external search engines (like Google), as well as through the Online Archive of California. We apologize for the temporary inconvenience.

Otherwise, if you notice that your searches on this site yield fewer, different, or simply unexpected results, please let us know. We are working with a new search technology and can continue to improve it with your help.

Why do I have to go another website to zoom, download, and play some items but not others?

Calisphere brings together collections from many different institutions and, accordingly, a variety of different technical platforms. In some cases, the files are hosted in Calisphere’s servers, which means that you can zoom, download, and play the items right here on the site. In other cases, we’re referring to items hosted on external websites, which means you must click through to those sites to perform these more advanced functions.

How can I find out more about an item or collection?

Because Calisphere does not own any of the original materials on this site, we aren’t very helpful when it comes to questions about them. Our contributing institutions, on the other hand, are incredibly knowledgeable. If you want to learn more about an item or collection you find on this site, contact the institution that contributed it. They’ll be happy to assist you.

To contact the contributing institution for a given item, simply click the “contact owner” button and send a message. Or, visit the institution's main page for phone and email information.

How can I get a high-quality reproduction of an item I find here?

If you require a high-resolution image or a copy of a text, audio, or video file, contact the institution that contributed it to Calisphere. Availability, protocols, and fees for obtaining files may differ among contributing institutions.

To contact the contributing institution for a given item, simply click the “contact owner” button and send a message. Or, visit the institution's main page for phone and email information.

Note that some items feature an "Order Item" button. If you see this button, you can use it to register with the contributing institution and directly place an order for a high-resolution copy.

Do I need permission to use items I find in Calisphere?

The collections in Calisphere are intended for research, teaching, and private study. Some uses—such as use in an article, book, or website—may require permission from or be subject to restrictions by the copyright owner and/or contributing institution. For more information, consult Calisphere’s Terms of Use.

If you determine that you require permission to publish, reproduce, or otherwise use an item you find in Calisphere—or if you need more information about the copyright status of a particular item in order to make that determination—please contact the contributing institution.

To contact the contributing institution for a given item, simply click the “contact owner” button and send a message. Or, visit the institution's main page for phone and email information.

What is the correct way to cite an item?

When citing an item on the site, please provide information about the item so that others may find more information about the original. Include the name of the contributing institution, a link to the item, and title and date information when available. Click the citation button on a given item to easily find this information. You can then use your preferred style guide for formatting the citation. The Library of Congress provides additional guidance on citing primary source materials.

I noticed an error in the description of an item or collection—or I have more information to share. How do I report it?

The descriptions of items in Calisphere -- or "metadata" -- are provided by the contributing institutions. Metadata is cataloging information that helps you discover, identify, and interpret the items. For example, metadata may include the title of an item, the name of the creator of the work, and the date when it was created. Libraries, archives, and museums take different approaches to creating metadata. In cases where the original items have existing information, they may transcribe that information and supply that as metadata. They may also obtain the information from the donor or creator of the original collection. Typically, however, they follow established cataloging standards to describe items.

However, due to often limited resources available for investigating individual items and describing them fully, metadata can sometimes lack accurate and/or complete information about facts such as the item's exact age, creator, or copyright status. Metadata can also reflect historical biases and terminology, due to how it was originally sourced or created.

Any suggested change to an item or collection in Calisphere should be directed to the institution that contributed it. Use the “Contact Owner” button to alert the institution to an error or provide additional information.

I found something great in Calisphere! Can I share my story?

Yes! If this site has helped you advance your research, complete a project, find something meaningful, or do anything else that’s important to you, we'd love to hear about it. Stories like yours help us obtain additional funding so we can continue to grow and improve Calisphere.

Can I suggest improvements to the site?

We are always on the lookout for new ways to enhance the user experience in Calisphere. Feel free to contact us with feature requests, ideas, and yes—even complaints. We’ll try our best to address these in our ongoing development of the site.

What is the technical framework behind Calisphere?

Calisphere uses many technologies to aggregate and deliver digital collections.

The public interface uses Django templates to build pages, Sass to build CSS, Backbone.js to maintain and manage query state, and Jquery-pjax to manage URL history as parts of pages are updated.

Item-level metadata in Calisphere is harvested from a variety of platforms using code adapted from the Digital Public Library of America. The data is indexed in Solr. Collection- and institution-level data is maintained in a Django-based registry. Calisphere uses Django and solrpy to query the Solr and registry APIs. Some of the items that appear in Calisphere are hosted in a customized implementation of the digital asset management system Nuxeo.

All of our code is publicly available on GitHub. For more information about our technical stack, please contact us.

Share your story

Has Calisphere helped you advance your research, complete a project, or find something meaningful? We'd love to hear about it. Stories like yours help us obtain additional funding so we can continue to grow and improve the site.

Please send us a message.