A primary source is a first hand testimony, document, speech or other evidence that gives insight into a particular person or an event.
They are often created during the time period which is being studied but can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants.
Primary sources are available in their original format in libraries, museums, archives, and are also reproduced online in library databases, books, and on university, government, and museum websites.
Common examples of Primary Sources:
- Original Documents: Autobiographies, memoirs, oral histories, diaries, interviews, correspondence (letters, emails, tweets, etc.), meeting minutes, film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, speeches, newspapers, and government documents (laws, policies, court testimonies, etc.).
- Creative Original Works: Art (paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc.), drama (plays, scripts, etc.), music, and non-fiction works like films, novels, and poetry.
- Relics or Artifacts: Buildings, clothing, DNA, furniture, jewelry, pottery.
Here is a short video about Primary vs. Secondary Sources: https://youtu.be/cqXHO7bTPnw
Library Databases with Primary Sources
- World History in Context This database covers a wide array of world history topics. When searching, look for sources and documents that fall under the "Primary Sources" category.
U.S History in Context
This database covers a wide array of U.S. history topics. When searching, look for sources and documents that fall under the "Primary Sources" category.
Los Angeles Times (from 1985 to Date)
1985 to present date. Using the ProQuest interface, search and view full-text Los Angeles Times articles.
Los Angeles Times Historical (1881-1992)
1881 to 1992 content. Using the ProQuest interface, search and view full-text Los Angeles Times articles.
African American Newspapers
Access to more than 350 U.S. newspapers chronicling a century and a half of the African American experience (1827-1998). This unique collection, which includes historically significant papers from more than 35 states, features many rare 19th-century titles.
Open Web Sources
- Digital Public Library of America: Many libraries and museums house primary sources. This website will search digital repositories of open-access content!
- Primary Source Sets (DPLA): Primary source collections exploring topics in history, literature, and culture developed by educators — complete with teaching guides for class use.
- Calisphere: Historical image, text, and sound collections available online from libraries, museums, and archives across California.
- California Digital Newspaper Collection: The California Digital Newspaper Collection contains over 1,500,000 pages of significant historical California newspapers published from 1846-present.
- Internet Archive: A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.
- Online Archive of California: Free public access to detailed descriptions of primary resource collections maintained by more than 200 contributing institutions including libraries, special collections, archives, historical societies, and museums throughout California and collections maintained by the 10 University of California (UC) campuses.
- Many museums and archives host their collections digitally at their websites. For example, if you can't make it to the Getty in-person, you can view their collections virtually.
Adapted from ELAC Library Workshop