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This guide is designed to help you find research and resources in the field of History.

Primary Sources

Primary sources help history come alive by giving a voice to the past.

A primary source is a document that was created at or during the time period being studied. Using primary sources in your research will help you:

  • Support or disprove the ideas and conclusions published in secondary sources
  • Provide evidence to support new conclusions
  • Get as close as possible to the person, event, or time period being researched


Primary source example letter from Abigail Adams to political writer, Mercy Otis Warren, written in 1776.
Secondary source example The book First Ladies of the Republic by Jeanne E. Abrams published in 2018.

Where Do I Find Primary Sources?

Primary sources are an important part of the research process but they can be a little tricky to find online. Use the following guides to help you get started.

Government Documents

Letters & Diaries

Newspapers & Magazines

Additional Sources

Online Archives

New to searching archives for primary sources? That's ok! These online archives cover diverse topics from around the world. If you need help finding a primary source about a specific topic, ask a librarian for assistance.

  • Google Arts & Culture
    • A non-profit initiative to preserve art and culture, including photographs and museum artifacts
  • British Library Digitized Manuscripts
    • Manuscripts from the British Library's collection covering a range of topics from ancient Hebrew to medieval France to classical music manuscripts and more. 
  • Digital Public Library of America
    • Provides access to millions of primary and second sources from museums, libraries, and more. Includes primary source sets.
  • Library of Congress Digital Collection
    • Photographs, audio recordings, maps, newspapers, and more all freely available from the Library of Congress.
  • NSU Digital Collections
    • The NSU Digital Collections is a collaborative project between the Alvin Sherman Library, Research, and Information Technology Center and the Nova Southeastern University Archives that contains photographs and contextual materials that provide an insight into the history and culture of NSU.
  • The New York Public Library Digital Collections
    • Almost one million digitized materials from the NYPL collections including photographs, prints, maps, and more. The collection is not New York City centric and includes materials from around the world.
  • World Digital Library
    • Early books, manuscripts, maps, motion pictures, photographs, and more. The World Digital Library is available through the Library of Congress with the support of UNESCO, libraries, archives, educational institutions, and museums from around the world.  

Search Tips

  • Digitized materials are often freely available online through libraries, museums, and government agencies.
    • Search the internet using specific keywords, e.g. Tuskegee Airmen letters
  • Review the references in your secondary sources. Their citations may lead you to more documents.
  • When searching in the library catalog or one of the databases, add a descriptive search term such as: documents, primary documents, primary sources, papers, narratives, letters, diaries, correspondence, interviews or speeches.