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Examples of Primary Sources
- artifacts (clothing, currency, furniture, jewelry, musical instruments, pottery, textiles, weapons, etc.)
- buildings/architectural landmarks
- census records
- documentary film/video
- government documents (official text of laws, investigative reports, legislative hearings, etc.)
- immigration records
- ledgers/financial documents
- legal documents/court records
- music scores
- news film footage
- newspaper reports (firsthand)
- official records
- oral histories
- personal narratives
- religious texts
- research data
- sheet music
- shipsʻ logs
- sound recordings (music or spoken word)
How to Find Primary Sources
1. Find secondary sources first.
- Review encyclopedia entries on your topic to find useful keywords, mentions of names, references to primary sources, images, etc.
- Use the Library Catalog to find books and articles on your topic.
2. Use secondary sources to locate primary sources.
- Do your secondary sources contain any primary source materials?
- Are there clues in your secondary sources about primary sources that exist on your topic, such as the titles of documents?
- Do the reference lists (bibliographies) from your secondary sources contain information on primary source materials?
3. Search the library catalog for primary sources.
- Search for keywords that describe your topic plus one of the words from the list of primary source subject headings and source times from the list on this page. For example, try Abraham Lincoln" \correspondence.
4. Google it.
- Try a Google search using your topic plus one of the words on the primary source examples list on this page. For example, try a search for: Mahatma Gandhi letters.
5. Search individual repositories of primary source materials. There are some listed on this page. A librarian can help you find others.
Primary Sources on the Web
American Memory (Library of Congress)
"Written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience".
Asia for Educators - Primary Source Documents with Questions
Excerpts of primary source documents. Site is geared toward educators but is an excellent starting place for students seeking primary source materials related to Asian history.
Internet History Sourcebooks Project
This site links to online historic documents grouped into virtual sourcebooks on Ancient
, and Modern
periods, with other sourcebooks focused on Byzantine studies, Africa, East Asia, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Lesbian & Gay, Science, and Women.
New York Public Library Digital Collections
"Over 800,000 images digitized from the New York Public Library's collections, including historical maps, vintage posters, photographs, and more."
Primary Source Sets
Primary Source information on a wide variety of topics from the Library of Congress.
Repositories of Primary Sources
A directory of online collections of primary source materials.
Windward Community College Library • 45-720 Keaʻahala Rd. • Kāneʻohe, HI 96744
Content: Windward Community College Library