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START HERE to explore resources available in historical research.

What Are Primary Resources?

"Primary sources are the evidence of history, original records or objects created by participants or observers at the time historical events occurred or even well after events, as in memoirs and oral histories.   

Primary sources may include but are not limited to: letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, maps, speeches, interviews, documents produced by government agencies, photographs, audio or video recordings, born-digital items (e.g. emails), research data, and objects or artifacts (such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons). These sources serve as the raw materials historians use to interpret and analyze the past."

-- ALA | Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using

Online Collections of Primary Source Material

Searching the Catalog for Primary Sources

Primary source material can be found throughout the print and microform collections of the Calvin T. Ryan Library.  Try searching on your topic and adding one of these keywords:

  • correspondence
  • narratives
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • letters

Example:  Ulysses Grant letters

Free Primary Sources

Library of American Civilization

Calvin T. Ryan Library holds thousands of microfiche from the Library of American Civilization (LAC) and Library of English Literature (LEL) collections.  These provide a wealth of primary source material for researchers. Some LAC and LEL contents are now freely available through Google Books, HathiTrust, and the Internet Archive. Simple paste the title into the search box on the respective sites.

Example of LAC title and the same title on Google Books, where you have the option to read online or download a PDF.