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Hope Library Guides

.History (General): Primary Sources

This is the main portal to databases and other library sources for history research at Van Wylen Library, Hope College.

Articles and Primary Source Databases

Primary Sources in HopeCat

Primary sources include a variety of materials written or created during the time period of the topic you are researching.

Library collections include primary sources in a variety of formats. Most of those in the Hope College Libraries are in book form. In some cases, the content of the book has been transferred to microfiche or a special type of microfiche known as ultrafiche.

One method for finding books that may be considered primary sources is to search HopeCAT using keywords that describe your topic in combination with the following terms:

  • sources;
  • personal narratives;
  • diaries;
  • correspondence;
  • interviews;
  • church records and registers;
  • sermons;
  • early works;
  • wills;
  • photographs.

Remember that you may need to think about your topic broadly to find primary sources using this method. After actually looking at the source you will know whether or not it effectively addresses your specific topic.

For additional assistance locating and using primary source materials, please consult the Van Wylen Library Reference Desk.

Primary Sources on the Web

There are many primary source collections available freely on the web.  Below are a few general examples.  To find others, try searching on national library websites of countries you are researching or do a very broad search on your topic combined with words like "digital archive" or "primary sources."  A librarian can also help you locate good collections.

Digital Public Library of America - This is a growing searchable portal to digital archival collections around the country.

Making of America - An online collection of sources related to American social history in the 19th Century
Cornell University MoA - Emphasizes periodical sources
University of Michigan MoA - Emphasizes book sources
American Memory - Library of Congress online collection of materials documenting American history
History on the Web - A webliography of sites dedicated to providing primary source historical information on the Web. Maintained by the University of Washington Libraries

Research/Instruction Librarians