Iowa DOT Historic Photos

Help section

Browsing the collections

Example of document in collectionAfter clicking the Search our Historic Collections, you will be able to select the collection you would like to review. Thumbnail images will appear in alphabetical order by title for each collection. Browse a collection within a library or use the search function to find a particular category of documents or specific documents.


Searches can be conducted from within a collection, and search results would reflect items only in that collection. Currently, there is no method to search all collections at once. However, the basic search function allows the user to search a collection using a keyword or phrase.

To search for a document using a key word (e.g., bridge), type the word in the appropriate field using wildcards (%). The search for bridge should be: %bridge%.

Anytime you are unsure of the exact spelling of the information contained in an entire field try using a wild card search in any field that does not have a drop-down list by placing the % sign before and after the word or partial spelling of the word. See examples in the search field descriptions below.

Advanced search

The advanced search function allows the user to search a collection by using multiple fields. Enter a word, phrase or number into more than one field to further narrow the search of the collection.

Every collection has its own unique search fields. The examples below of fields that normally require the use of wildcards (%) are from the 404-401 permits collection. Drop-down lists do not require or allow using wildcards. Although the search criteria vary from collection to collection, the search process is similar.

Search field descriptions

Route #

Example for I-80: %80%

Site Desc/Loc

Example: %culvert%

Project #

Use only a small segment of the project number, typically from the middle of the number.  Example for STPN-006-2(39)--2J-15, search as follows: %06-2(39%


Permit numbers typically begin with the year in which the permit was issues, so, for example, a search of %2007% would yield all permits issued in 2007.

DATE (any date field)

Some date fields may not contain data (such as DISCONTINUATION DATE); however, when they are populated, these fields contain both dates and times, so the wild cards (%) absolutely should be used.

How to download documents

This procedure assumes an individual is using Microsoft Internet Explorer® Version 7 and up and may vary if another version or browser is used.

To open a collection:
  • Click on the collection name.
When searching within a collection:
  • Thumbnail images of the specific documents matching the search will be displayed. (Note: Thumbnail images are not available for downloading.)
When viewing a document:
  • Click on the thumbnail image and a larger image will be displayed along with document information available from the database.
  • The number of pages in the document is shown below its image (Page X of Y).
  • The current page will be displayed in the thumbnail to the left of the larger image, as well as in the center of your screen.
  • To see a larger view of that page, click on large view or anywhere on the document's image.
  • The current page can be printed from the large view by using your printer's functions.
  • To view the entire document, save the document to a location of your choosing
To download, print or store the entire document:
  • Click on the link Download Original File above the document image and save the document to a location of your choosing.
  • To print the document, use your printer's functions.
  • To store either a single page or the entire document in your lightbox, see instructions below.
GRAND AVENUE AMES 1936-1938 - Construction Workers


What is the lightbox?

The lightbox is an area where photos can be stored and reviewed while the user is looking at the collections. The lightbox is collection-specific. For example: If you put items from highway plans into the lightbox, the plans will be available only from within the Highway Plans collection. Also note: Items stored in the lightbox are available only on the machine you originally used to store them. It's simple. Here's how it works.

  1. Perform a search of the collection and thumbnail-sized images matching your search will appear.
  2. Located adjacent to each thumbnail image is a checkbox to Add to lightbox. Check the boxes next to the images to be placed in the lightbox.
  3. Be sure to click on Update lightbox before exiting the collection. The items will be saved for later viewing.
  4. Once the search has been completed, click on the lightbox link. A list of all the selected documents will be displayed.
  5. Using the lightbox tool you can compare documents and narrow the selection to the documents needed to download (see above).

Note: Items stored in the lightbox will remain in the lightbox when you exit the site and will be available the next time you visit the document collection, provided you use the same computer to access the document collection.

In order to for a user to set up a lightbox, the user must make sure the computer's browser's security and privacy settings allow for the use of "cookies." Normally, the default setting will allow for the use of cookies.

*Currently, a link or path may be called "Lightbox," rather than "lightbox," however, they are the same location. The website will be updated on an ongoing basis, as the department transitions all navigation aids to "lightbox."