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Primary vs Secondary
Is this Primary?! Is this Secondary?!
Look through these two tutorials to help you figure it out!
Primary Source keyword/type examples
Use these terms as keywords, alongside keywords or subject headings related to your topic, to search for primary sources related to your topic. Try to think about in what format the information might have been recorded in during that Historical Time Period.
One method for finding books that may be considered primary sources is to search PRIMO using keywords that describe your topic in combination with the following terms:
Example: personal narratives AND "south africa" (see image below for other example)
- personal narratives
- oral history / oral histories / oral narratives
Searching for Primary Sources on the Web
There are many primary source collections freely available online.
Try searching on national library websites of countries you are researching, or do a very broad search on your topic in combination with words/phrases like "digital archive" or "primary sources" or "digitized" or "digital collection."
jane addams digital collection
france national library digitized
- If your topic is geographically specific, do some browsing on the state library websites for in your area to see if they have any digitization projects from their collection.
- If you discover that a particular library is strong in your subject area, check their website as well.
- Browse the subject guides of major research libraries, they will often include helpful weblinks in subject specific guides.
- When searching on the internet, try including words like "digital collection" or "primary sources" along with your more general subject
- If you are looking for a specific older published source, type in its specific title; it might come up in a digital collection or Google Books.
Primary sources outside the library
is a core electronic collection of books and journals in Home Economics and related disciplines. Titles published between 1850 and 1950 were selected and ranked by teams of scholars for their great historical importance. The first phase of this project focused on books published between 1850 and 1925 and a small number of journals. Future phases of the project will include books published between 1926 and 1950, as well as additional journals.
Civil War Era from Gettysburg College
This digital repository
offers a sampling of a broader collection that includes political cartoons, letters, photographs,
maps, and artifacts relating to the Civil War Era.
American Radicalism from MSU
The Radicalism Collection includes books, pamphlets, periodicals, posters, and ephemera covering a wide range of viewpoints on political, social, economic, and cultural issues and movements in the United States and throughout the world.
Women of Protest from Library of Congress
One of the many digital collections from the Library of Congress
American Memory from the Library of Congress
Another of the many digital collections from the Library of Congress
Women's Liberation Movement Print Culture
From Duke University: Manifestos, speeches, essays, and other materials documenting various aspects of the Women's Movement in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s
From Harvard: The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America documents the lives of women of the past and present for the future and furthers the Radcliffe Institute's commitment to women, gender, and society.
Herstories: Audio/Visual Collections
The Lesbian Herstory Archives is home to the world's largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities. “Herstories: Audio/Visual Collections” contains digitized copies of some of the 3,000 oral history cassettes in the Archives' Spoken Word Collection and 950 videotapes in the Video Collection.
Digital Transgender Archive
The purpose of the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) is to increase the accessibility of transgender history by providing an online hub for digitized historical materials, born-digital materials, and information on archival holdings throughout the world. Based in Worcester, Massachusetts at the College of the Holy Cross, the DTA is an international collaboration among more than thirty colleges, universities, nonprofit organizations, and private collections.
American Friends Service Committee Archives
More than just a collection of records pertaining to one organization’s history, the AFSC’s archive provides a unique and singular view of the social, political, and economic movements that shaped the 20th Century and are still relevant today.
National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection
The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Collection is a library of nearly 800 books and pamphlets documenting the suffrage campaign that were collected between 1890 and 1938 by members of NAWSA and donated to the Rare Books Division of the Library of Congress on November 1, 1938.
Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States
We have now posted five installments of the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States containing almost 3,000 biographical sketches of grassroots women suffragists. We will be adding to the database regularly over the next year and when complete it will include crowdsourced biographical sketches of more than 3,600 women suffrage activists, primarily concentrated in the period 1890-1920. We are aiming for an inclusive collection, including white and black suffragists, mainstream and militant suffragists. The sketches will place women's suffrage activism within the frame of women's broader social agenda, before and after the passage of the 19th Amendment in August 1920.
Womens Suffrage Memorabilia
The primary purpose of this site is to provide a repository for information about memorabilia connected to the woman suffrage movement in both England and America. Subjects discussed here will include woman suffrage buttons, suffrage ribbons, suffrage sashes, suffrage advertising cards, suffrage jewelry, suffrage sheet music, suffrage postcards, Cinderella stamps and other aspects of suffrage ephemera. The focus is not on pamphlets and autograph material, although articles about these types of items do appear on occasion.
Alice Paul Institute
The Alice Paul Institute is dedicated to providing quality assistance to researchers of all ages who want to learn more about Alice Paul, women’s suffrage in the U.S., and the Equal Rights Amendment.
American Women: Resources from the Performing Arts Collections
Part of the American Women Series, this guide highlights collections and resources in the Music Division that document the lives and work of significant women in music, theater, and dance.
Hope Electronic Collections
At Hope Libraries, we subscribe to several full text databases of published primary sources. They are searchable by keyword, so you can do very precise searches on your topic in newspapers, magazines and journals. Because these databases are so large t is helpful to narrow by date range to the time period in which you are interested.
Harper's Weekly (HarpWeek)
Content/Description: Provides illustrations, photographs, maps, and issues of Harper's Weekly publications, a prominent American 19th century newspaper.
Content/Description:Includes articles, books, reviews and other sources. "Data for Research" provides interactive content. "Workspace" saves and shares sources. "Text Analyzer" searches for sources with user documents. "Understanding Series" provides sources quoting selected text.
Readers' Guide Retrospective: 1890-1982 (H.W. Wilson) [EBSCOhost]
Subject: History, Journalism, Interdisciplinary
Content/Description:Articles with full-text links and video from publications spanning a wide range of topics and dates.
Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 (scholar's edition)
Subject: History, Political Science, Women and Gender Studies
Content/Description: Contains full-text primary documents, archive notes, books, film and website reviews, and teaching tools with archives.
Early English Books Online (EEBO)
Content/Description: Contains digitized images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700.
Nineteenth Century Collections Online I-IV
Content/Description: Includes full-text documents and maps in collections I-IV: Asia and the West: Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange; British Politics and Society; British Theatre, Music, and Literature: High and Popular Culture; European Literature, 1790-1840.
Slavery & Abolition, 1789-1887
Content/Description: Access to historical journals that chronicle the African-American experience during the 19th century. Subjects include religion, literature, slavery, and abolition.
American Antiquarian Society(AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection: Series 1-5 (1693-1912)
Content/Description: A collection of primary sources from American magazines and journals on history and culture from 1693 to 1912. Its magazine and journal articles and digitized images cover advertising, health, social and religious issues, science, and slavery.
General Interest Christian Periodicals, 1743-1889
Content/Description: Provides periodicals of sermons from various groups that address broad religious themes and at the time appealed to a general readership.
Gale Primary Sources
Content/Description: Provides a series of primary sources including diary entries, books, and newspaper articles from a series of databases.
Google News Archive Search
Search engine for historical newspapers from Google's News Archive Partner Program and other online archival collections. Note: not all material will be freely available.
General Primary Source Collections
Digital Public Library of America
Growing searchable portal to digital archival content around the country. Check primary source sets!
HathiTrust Digital Library is a digital preservation repository and highly functional access platform. It provides long-term preservation and access services for public domain and in copyright content from a variety of sources, including Google, the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and in-house partner institution initiatives.
The partners ensure the reliability and efficiency of the digital library by relying on community standards and best practices, developing policies and procedures to manage content and services at scale, and maintaining a modular, open infrastructure.
Harvard Digital Collections
Harvard Digital Collections provides free, public access to over 6 million objects digitized from our collections - from ancient art to modern manuscripts and audio visual materials.
Harvard Curated Digital Collections
Curated views that provide specialized search options and unique content
Internet Sourcebook for Modern History
A Collection of Sources curated by the History Department of Fordham University.
Welsh Newspaper Archives
Collection of digitized Welsh Newspapers.
European History Primary Sources
Massive repository relating to primary sources in Europe.
German History Documents
German History in Documents and Images (GHDI) is a comprehensive collection of primary source materials documenting Germany's political, social, and cultural history from 1500 to the present.
Medical Heritage Library
The Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital curation collaborative among some of the world’s leading medical libraries, promotes free and open access to quality historical resources in medicine. Our goal is to provide the means by which readers and scholars across a multitude of disciplines can examine the interrelated nature of medicine and society, both to inform contemporary medicine and strengthen understanding of the world in which we live. The MHL’s growing collection of digitized medical rare books, pamphlets, journals, and films number in the tens of thousands, with representative works from each of the past six centuries, all of which are available here through the Internet Archive.
Disability History Museum
The Disability History Museum hosts a Library of virtual artifacts, Education curricula, and Museum exhibits. These programs are designed to foster research and study about the historical experiences of people with disabilities and their communities.
Hope College is now affilliated with the Center for Research Libraries. This gives us access to a great number of important historical resources, in print, microfilm and online. These can be ordered through ILL. Start looking for materials in their online catalog. Also, you can browse for newspapers by country and by city.