This article reports on a series of retrieval experiments using online finding aid systems in two archival institutions to identify heuristics for successful search in archival systems. The project analyzes the success rates of search strategies of forty-three participants and finds that highly successful searchers possess prior archival experience and use both Boolean searches and the browser's page find functionality. Successful searchers also utilize a broader range of search strategies and query reformulation techniques. Many searchers had difficulty choosing appropriate search terms and understanding archival terminology. The results of this study have implications for archival instruction, federated search, and the design of interfaces for online finding aids.

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