Primary Resources

Primary Sources from the World Wide Web

Begin by familiarizing yourself with your topic.  Take notes from encyclopedias, biographies and other print sources as well as the Internet.  Note dates, specific awards won, legislation sponsored, accomplishments, events in which your subject participated.  All of these will give you keywords that will help you narrow your search to a manageable size, and help you decide which database of primary sources you should use.

Items created prior to 1923 OR that are created by an employee of the United States government are in the category of fair use, or in other words…outside copyright protection and available for use.

Primary sources are original documents or works and can include art, poetry, music, excerpts from diaries, and items written by your subject.

Secondary sources are interpretations of someone and can be one or more steps removed from your subject.  These can include an article or book about your topic or their work, or even a critic’s comments about a movie about your subject.  Secondary sources, while often useful, by definition include someone’s opinion about your topic.

Following are some resources that may help you find a primary source to enhance your research:

This site offers an annotated list of web resources for locating primary sources organized by subject, with hot links to related sites.

QCA Heritage Inventory. Learn about what has been here around you all along.  See things you have never known existed right out your own back door. Learn about people from the past who have helped shape your hometown to make it the most amazing place to live in the Midwest. Learn true stories and legends about your area that have helped create our country. This online database and resource will be a one stop spot to get you on an adventure that will change how you will see and appreciate our community…our Quad Cities.

The Library of Congress holds a great collection of primary resources, millions of which have been digitized.  Notice, this is the OPAC for our nation’s library.  It will note in the description if it has been digitized or is only available at the Library in Washington D.C.

American Memory is one of the many collections of primary sources available on the Library of Congress site.

New York Public Library Archives and Manuscripts provides full text and more.

The Smithsonian Institute is our national museum.  This site contains information about American history.

The National Security Archive contains declassified security documents.  The home page features new documents.  Also contains a search function.

The National Archives contain our important papers and documents.  This site, designed for teachers, provides primary source documents organized by era.

Looking for core documents of the U.S. political world?

Archiving Early America

Civil War Primary Documents includes quotes, art, and cartoons.

History Matters:

History Channel: On this site you can browse through “On this day” or do a keyword search.

A chronological list of U.S. historical documents:

The American Presidency Project publishes papers on the Presidents:

POTUS: Documents and audio files of Presidents.

American Rhetoric: 100 top speeches and comprehensive speech bank.

Smithsonian”s History Explorer: Can search by Resource Type, Grade level, Historical Era, and more. Can find Interactive and Media resources, Museum Artifacts, Themes, Books, and more.

Search Engines:

iResearch Reporter

Google Scholar

Google News Archive Search

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