"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as well as paper artifacts with examples ranging from private papers, diaries, journals, maps and business ledgers to unpublished manuscript materials.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.
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.