Primary Sources in American History and Culture

This guide is intended to assist students in locating and using primary sources in their research. Included in this guide are references to both real and virtual sources of interest to researchers in American History and Culture.

What Are Archives?

"What's past is prologue" Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act II, Scene ii, lines 253-254

Archives are the gatekeepers of primary source materials. These repositories are as varied as the materials that they house. Archives can be found in a respected college or university, a local historical society or museum or even in an institutional setting such as a corporate headquarters. Included in what constitutes archival materials are physical artifacts, visuals such as photographs, paintings and film, as well as paper artifacts with  examples ranging from private papers, diaries, journals, maps and business ledgers to unpublished manuscript materials.  

In addition to the thousands of physical archives in the United States, 21st century technology has brought many of these diverse collections into our home or office, providing virtual access to a myriad of primary source materials. Many collections housed by major libraries have been digitized providing access to the researcher day or night. In addition, there are commerically produced databases that libraries can subscribe to, adding additional primary resources for their patrons. 

Archives and Special Collections

What Is a Primary Source?

A primary source is a first person account of an event. It can refer to original documents, research or physical objects and can include but is not limited to diaries, speeches, letters, newspapers, photographs, artwork and manuscript materials.

About Me

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Jessica Wagner Webster
Newman Library, 523

Publication Note

This Research Guide was originally created by Professor Emeritus Sandra Roff, previously Archivist of Baruch College.