This is the "Finding Primary Sources" page of the "Working with Primary Sources Documents" guide.
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Working with Primary Sources Documents   Tags: document analysis, primary sources  

Last Updated: Sep 30, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Finding Primary Sources Print Page

Primary Sources on the Web

American Journeys
"American Journeys contains more than 18,000 pages of eyewitness accounts of North American exploration." Search or browse by expedition, settlement, geographic region, state or province. From the Wisconsin Historical Society.

American Memory
"American Memory is a gateway to rich primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections." Search or browse by topic, time period, geography, or format. From the Library of Congress.

American Presidency Project
Nearly 40,000 documents related to the study of the American Presidency including the Public Papers of the President, State of the Union and inaugural addresses, presidential debates, national party platforms, and more. From UC Santa Barbara.

American Rhetoric
"A Growing database of full text, audio and video (streaming) versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other recorded media events."

Archival Research Catalog
The Archival Research Catalog (ARC) of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) can be used to search a subset of NARA documents that are available online.

Archiving Early America
A wealth of primary source material from 18th Century America. View scenes and portraits from origina newspapers, maps and writings just as they appeared to this country's forebears more than two centuries ago.

Avalon Project
"The Avalon Project will mount digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government." Search, browse by time period, or collection.From the Yale Law School.

Chronicling America
Search and view newspaper pages from 1880-1922 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

Chronology of US Historical Documents
Important U.S. legal documents dating from pre-colonial to the present. Maintained by the University of Oklahoma's Law School.

Civil War Resources on the Internet
From Rutger's University Library, this site provides easy access to both documents and personal narratives.

Core Documents of U.S. Democracy
"The basic Federal Government documents that define our democratic society." This includes "cornerstone" documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and from recent years: Congressional bills, the Congressional Record, public and private laws, the U.S. Code, Supreme Court decisions, and much more." From GPO Access.

Digital History
Over 400 annotated documents, as well as other primary sources, essays, reference materials an audio archive including, and a visual archive with hundreds of historical maps and images. From the University of Houston.

Documenting the American South
"Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to Southern history, literature, and culture from the colonial period through the first decades of the 20th century. Currently DocSouth includes seven thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs. " From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

Wiki provides access to documents as they pertain to European countries, throughout history.

FDR Library Digital Archives
Includes over 13,000 pages from the "President's Secretary's File", over 1000 images, and Roosevelt's Fireside Chats. From the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.

Historical Census Browser
"The data presented here describe the population and economy of U.S. states and counties from 1790 to 1960. The available data differ somewhat from decade to decade, according to what was collected in the census and the items chosen for transcription to electronic form. For the early decades, most of the enumerated items are included. For later decades, only a portion of characteristics have been transcribed." From the University of Virginia Library.

Historic Government Publications from World War II
Contains 343 Informational pamphlets, government reports, instructions, regulations, declarations, speeches, and propaganda materials distributed by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) during the Second World War.

Historical Publications of the United States Commission on Civil Rights
"Since its inception in 1957 the United States Commission on Civil Rights has been at the forefront of efforts by the Federal government and state governments to examine and resolve issues related to race, ethnicity, religion and, more recently, sexual orientation." Historical documents arranged by title, date, subject, and SUDOC number. From the Thurgood Marshall Law Library.

History Channel - Speech Archive
Listen to hundreds of 20th Century speeches. Categories include politics and government, war and diplomacy, science and technology, arts and entertainment. Requires RealPlayer (free download).

Holocaust Documents
The documents here are provided by the Florida Institute for Instructional Technology, in conjunction with the Florida Holocaust Museum.

Internet Library of Early Journals
A joint project by the Universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford aimed to digitise substantial runs of 18th and 19th century journals, and make these images available on the Internet, together with their associated bibliographic data.

Internet Sacred Text Archives
The largest freely available archive of online books about religion, mythology, folklore and the esoteric on the Internet. The site is dedicated to religious tolerance and scholarship.

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online
A massive collection, searchable and categorized by subject, format, and creator.  Downloadable, when copyright permissions allow.

Making of America
"The Making of America project is a collaborative effort by the libraries of Cornell University and the University of Michigan to present digital copies of primary source materials published in the United States from before the American Civil War to the 1920s. Journals and other periodicals are the principal publications available, as well as some book titles." From Cornell University Library

Our Documents: 100 Milestone Documents from National Archives
To help us think, talk and teach about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in our democracy, we invite you to explore 100 milestone documents of American history. These documents reflect our diversity and our unity, our past and our future, and mostly our commitment as a nation to continue to strive to "form a more perfect union."

Presidential Libraries
Portal offers access to all Presidential libraries and museums, where the correspondence, photographs, and significant documents of each President's time in office are archived.

Repository of Primary Sources
Megalist of resource respositories, searchable by location (country and state).  This is where your search for local history begins!

United States Historical Census Browser
The data and terminology presented in the Historical Census Browser are drawn directly from historical volumes of the U.S. Census of Population and Housing.

United States National Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation's record keeper. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by us forever.

Valley of the Shadow
Details Northern and Southern life during the civil war by looking at two specific communities during the time of John Brown's raid in the Civil War. Visitors can view the primary source documents that provide historical insight into these communities.

War Letters
War Letters is a simple site which aims to database as many old war correspondence as possible and make them freely available online to all web users. With these letters, often photographs, drawings, love poems and other miscellaneous objects are included.

Women Working, 1800-1930
"Provides access to digitized historical, manuscript, and image resources selected from Harvard University's library and museum collections. The collection features: 7,500 pages of manuscripts, 3,500 books and pamphlets, and 1,200 photographs."

World War II Poster Collection
A comprehensive collection of over 300 posters issued by U.S. Federal agencies from the onset of war through 1945. Search by word or phrase and browse by date, title or topic. From Northwestern University Library


Identifying Primary Sources

Check your closets or Grandma's attic.  If you can't find primary source materials squirreled away by family members, check here.  Everyday, libraries and museums around the world are digitizing more of their collections.  It's the ultimate preservation project...and most of it's free too use!

Primary Sources in the Library

Cover Art
The Depression and New Deal : a history in documents - Robert S. McElvaine,
Call Number: 973.91 MCE
ISBN: 0195104935
A collection of primary sources documenting American life throughout its history. Volumes available in the LMC include: Imperialism; the Great Depression; the Cold War; Encounters in the New World; The Gilded Age.

Cover Art
Presidents Debating the Issues Series - David A. Smith,, Editors
Call Number: R 320 PRE
ISBN: 0313313873
Multiple volume set provides researchers with documents for broad analysis of each presidential administrations through Bill Clinton. Exploring the issues which shaped the presidential terms through primary source documents.

Cover Art
Competing Voices Series
Call Number: R 972.9106 COM
ISBN: 1846450233
Provides competing viewpoints key historical events told through articles, letters, interviews, and other primary sources. Volume available in the LMC include: Mexican Revolution, Revolutionary Cuba, World War II, the Crusades, Native America, Russian Revolution.

Cover Art
Milestone documents in American history : exploring the primary sources that shaped America - Paul Finkelman, Editor in Chief
Call Number: R 973 MIL
ISBN: 9780979775802
A comprehensive four-volume resource for primary source documents that helped shape American society from the Revolution to the twenty-first century, covering over 130 full-text documents on politics, economics, science, race relations, foreign policy, and religious liberty.

Cover Art
People and Perspectives Series - Jennifer L. Goloboy, Editor
Call Number: R 973 PER
ISBN: 1598840657
Examines the impact of history on the lives of ordinary Americans, with excerpts from letters, diaries, and other primary sources. Titles in the LMC include: Civil Rights Movement, Coldwar and McCarthy Era, Great Depression, Industrial Revolution, Reconstruction, Vietnam War.

Cover Art
Personal Perspectives (WWI & WWII) - Timothy C. Dowling, editor
Call Number: R 940.54 PER
ISBN: 1851095659
Each volume presents twelve essays written by scholars and authors who relate their experiences during World War One and World War Two.

Cover Art
Working Americans, 1880-1999 Series
Call Number: R 305.5
ISBN: 1891482815
Uses primary sources and data affecting profiled American families to unveil the economic trends in America from 1880 through 1999.


Primary Source Analysis Tools

Coming soon!  Links to tools for analyzing primary source documents and artifacts!

Online Audio and Video

  • The Interent Archives
    The Internet Archives is a non-profit project that seeks to digitize and make freely available primary source movies, texts, audio files, and software.
  • Universal News Reels
    Before TV, newsreels were shown before every feature film in the local theaters. Universal Newsreel, produced from 1929 to 1967, offer a fascinating and unique view of another era in time. Universal City Studios gifted Universal Newsreel to the American people, put the newsreels into the public domain, and gave film materials to the National Archives in 1976. Part of the surviving collection is available here, through the Internet Archives project.
  • Radio Lovers
    An Old Time Radio library! Radio shows are grouped by genre and listeners can enjoy these resources online or download for free.

Great for browsing...

Access Newspaper Archives
Over 2900 archival copies of newspapers from around the world by date,location or subject.
Historical Chicago Daily Tribune

Search the entire the Chicago Daily Tribune from its first date of publication. Gain an eyewitness perspective of historical events and people.
AP/Accunet Multimedia Archives
Access images, audio, and graphics posted to "the wire" from mid 19th century to the present.
SIRS Decades

Includes advertising, editorial cartoons, letters, literary works, maps and charts, original documents, photographs, speeches, and much more. Navigate by year, decade or century.

Suggest a Resource!


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