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Macdonald-Kelce Library

Primary Sources

A guide to assist you with defining and finding primary sources


Primary Sources on the Web


The links below are a sampling, and by no means exhaustive list, of online resources which provide access to primary source documents.

AD* Access:  (Duke University Libraries) - Over 7,000 U.S. and Canadian advertisements covering five product categories - Beauty and Hygiene, Radio, Television, Transportation, and World War II propaganda - dated between 1911 and 1955.

The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy: A digital document library by the Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library.

British History OnlineBHO is a not-for-profit digital library based at the Institute of Historical Research. It brings together material for British history from the collections of libraries, archives, museums and academics. These primary and secondary sources, which range from medieval to twentieth century, are easily searchable and browsable online.

Civil Rights Digital Library: A comprehensive archive on the Civil Rights Movement. Content includes a digital video archive of historical news film, manuscript and photo collections, and a pedagogical collection which offers encyclopedia articles, lesson plans, and activities.

Dying Speeches and Bloody Murders: Crime Broadsides (Harvard Law Schools Library): This collection of nearly 600 broadsides highlights crime and capital punishment, primarily in England, as seen through the popular press in the 18th and 19th century.

Duke Papyrus Archive: This archive provides access to texts about and images of nearly 1400 papyri from ancient Egypt.

Early English Books (EEBO): The corpus of books in this database trace the history of English thought from the first book printed in English in 1475 through to 1700. The books include works of literature, philosophy, politics, religion, geography, history, politics, mathematics, music, the practical arts, natural science, and all other areas of human endeavor.

Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920(Duke University Libraries) - A collection of over 3,300 advertising items and publications dating from 1850 to 1920, illustrating the rise of consumer culture and the birth of a professionalized advertising industry in the United States.

Fashion Plate Collection (University of Washington Libraries)

Florida Memory (State Library and Archives of Florida) - A digital archive of photographs, manuscripts, audio, and video of Florida history. The Archives is part of the Division of Library and Information Services, one of seven divisions within the Florida Department of State.

Florida Open Academic Library - A collaboration with Florida Academic Library Services Cooperative (FALSC) member libraries, the Florida Open Academic Library provides a statewide searchable database that includes an inventory of digital archives and collections held by public postsecondary education institutions. 

Internet Ancient History Sourcebook (Fordham University)

HathiTrust Digital Library

Internet Medieval Sourcebook

Internet Modern History Sourcebook

Library of Congress

  • American Memory: "American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience."
  • Digital Collections: "A growing treasury of digitized photographs, manuscripts, maps, sound recordings, motion pictures, and books, as well as "born digital" materials such as Web sites."
  • Primary Source Sets
  • Primary Source Sets by State

Loeb Music Library Digital Scores and Libretti (Harvard University):  The scores and libretti in this collection include first and early editions and manuscript copies of music from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by J.S. Bach and Bach family members, Mozart, Schubert and other composers, as well as multiple versions of nineteenth century opera scores, seminal works of musical modernism, and music of the Second Viennese School.

Making of America (through Cornell University & University of Michigan): represents a major collaborative endeavor to preserve and make accessible through digital technology a significant body of primary sources related to development of the U.S. infrastructure.

National Archives (archives.gov) -  The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation's record keeper. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by us forever. Check out high quality reproductions of America's most important documents here.

Nuremberg Trials Project: A Digital Document Collection

OAIster Digital Archives Search (via OCLC) - A selection of digital resources from open archives collections that represents multidisciplinary resources from more than 1,100 contributors worldwide.

Perseus Digital Library (Tufts University) - A digital library of ancient Greek and Roman texts and images.

Publication of Archival, Library, & Museum Materials (PALMM) (State University Libraries of Florida)

University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC) - Managed by the George A. Smathers Libraries at UF, UFDC hosts more than 300 outstanding digital collections.

Special Collections at the College of Law (University of Oklahoma): Documents covering Native American history, law, and culture. 

Vintage Ad Browser - A collection of vintage ads from a variety of sources.

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