Search tips

Search tips

All the images from every collection in the HPC online archive can be searched for, using the 'Search images' box at the top right of every page.

Enter a word (e.g. pagoda) in the Search box and, if desired, then use 'Advanced search' for more targeted searches.

As a search for 'cat', for example, also finds images associated with words like catholic, indicate, education, etc., an indirect route can sometimes be productive. So, to find images of cats, enter another word like 'animal' or 'pet' in the 'Search images' box and then when a relevant image entry is up on the screen, click on the tag/keyword 'cat' to find more images of felines.

Alternatively, use a search engine, such as Google. Go to the Google search page and enter in the search box: “” cat.

Individual images for which you know the HPC image reference number or identifier (e.g. Ba05-072 or JC-m01), can be searched for by entering that image reference number in the Search box.

To scroll though every image on the site, ordered by their HPC image reference numbers or identifiers, enter the word 'China' in the Search box. To view a random sample of material from across our different collections, try Lucky Dip.

Work by a particular photographer can be searched for via the Photographers tab in the top bar. Click or tap on the lead image to see biographical details and images by that photographer.

Featured Collections, such as those collections grouped together into the ‘Chinese Maritime Customs collections’, can be accessed by the tab in the top bar.

All the images in a photograph album can be viewed in the same sequence as in the original photograph album, by searching for the album reference number. For example, entering Ar01 in the Search box will return all the images in the first Armstrong album, in the order that they are affixed in the actual photograph album. The HPC references for albums can be found in the introductions to each collection.

Terminology used on image entry pages


A brief description of the image.


This field may include information about people, places, content, or events in the photograph. This is based on information from donors of materials to the project, our research, and/or the contributions of other researchers. Relevant, evidence-based explanation and comment may also be included.


A transcription of any captioning written, or otherwise recorded, in the original photograph album (or on a card/paper mount), beside or relating to the photograph.  This verbatim record includes any errors, spelling mistakes, etc.


A verbatim transcription of any captioning written or recorded on the back or front of the original photographic print, including any errors, spelling mistakes, etc.


Click or tap on a ‘Related Photographs’ thumbnail image to go to the image entry details of an image to which it is in some way related. Photographs may be related if, for example, they were taken at the same event, but appear in different albums, or different collections (e.g. Pe01-065 and Su01-64).


Click or tap on a tag/keyword to see other images tagged with that keyword, for example: Modernism, Bridge, WW1, Peking.

HPC image referencing schema

Each collection has been allocated a two-letter reference, e.g. XX.

Original photograph albums in a collection are referenced XX01, XX02, XX03, etc.

Every image in a photograph album is given a unique reference number (or HPC identifier), e.g. XX01-001. Generally, the digital copies of photographs are numbered in the same order as they appear in the original photograph album.

The digital copies of photographs, which are not affixed in a photograph album, are labelled with the letter ‘s’, as part of the HPC image reference (or identifier).

Negatives are labelled with the letter ‘n’.

Transparencies (slides) are labelled with the letter ‘t’.

Magic lantern slides are labelled with the letter ‘m’.

Images supplied to us already in a digital format are labelled with the letter ‘d’.

So, these images with their collection references, would start with: XX-s01, XX-n01, XX-t01, XX-m01, XX-d01.