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Primary Sources


Working with primary sources can be an enriching and fascinating research experience, and we've got many different kinds of primary source materials available here in the University Library, both in print and online.

Your first stop for primary source research, especially regional research, is Special Collections. Special Collections include manuscripts, photographs, letters, collected papers, documents, media, journals and ledgers, original art, and a lot more. Many of these materials have been digitized; in order to work with materials in print, you'll need to make an appointment. Contact Special Collections for more information.

In addition to the rare and unique materials in Special Collections, we subscribe to many digitized collections of primary source materials.

Newspapers and Periodicals

Letters and Diaries

  • American Civil War: Letters and Diaries: Diaries, letters and memoirs provide firsthand descriptions of all aspects of the Civil War between 1855 and 1875, including events leading up to the war, the war itself, and events immediately following it.
  • British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries:Large collection of British and Irish women's diaries and correspondence. Spanning more than 300 years, it provides first person accounts of about 500 women from all age groups, ethnicities, and many geographical regions. The materials may be browsed by author, source, year, place, historical events.
  • History Vault: Black Feedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Primary source documentation on all of the major milestones and events in the 20th century civil rights movement. Module one consists of documents from federal government agencies and module two has records from civil rights organizations and personal papers. 
  • North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories: A collection of personal narratives of over 2,000 immigrants to the United States and Canada in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Inclues letters, diaries, pamphlets, autobiographies, and oral histories. 
  • North American Women's Letters and Diaries: Digitized letters and diaries authored by women in the North America from colonial times to 1950. 
  • Social and Cultural History: Letters and Diaries Online: A very comprehensive archive of social memory including private writings and personal narratives from ordinary men and women along with personal accounts of well-known historic figures. 

Photographs and Media

  • American Memory: Primary source materials relating to U.S. history and culture compiled by the Library of Congress. Highlights include 25,000 photographs of turn-of-the-century America, more than 1,100 Civil War photographs, early motion pictures, and many other political and literary works.

State Papers and Documents

  • American State Papers, 1789-1838: Primary source material on many aspects of early American history from 1789 to 1838, including approximately 6280 numbered publications, largely Congressional but also containing Executive Department materials (e.g., Foreign Relations, Indian Affairs, Public Lands, etc.)
  • CQ Historic Documents Series Online: CQ Historic Documents Series Online Edition collects more than 2,500 primary sources covering current events around the world from 1972 to present. Includes key presidential speeches, international agreements, Supreme Court decisions, important U.S. governmental reports, scientific findings, and cultural discussions.
  • History Vault: Black Feedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Primary source documentation on all of the major milestones and events in the 20th century civil rights movement. Module one consists of documents from federal government agencies and module two has records from civil rights organizations and personal papers. 
  • U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980: Reports, documents, and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. 

Maps

  • Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867-1970 (California): This resource includes most of the fire insurance maps produced by the Sanborn Map Company from the mid-1880s to around 1970. A great way to chart the growth and development of cities over time. 

Oral Histories

  • Oral History Online: This database is both an index to oral history collections and a collection of full text, audio, and video files of oral history interviews in English. Includes documents the Slave Narratives Federal Writers' Project, the Cold War Oral History project, the Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive, the China Missionaries Project, and many, many more. 
  • North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories: A collection of personal narratives of over 2,000 immigrants to the United States and Canada in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Inclues letters, diaries, pamphlets, autobiographies, and oral histories.