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Stony Brook University

History: Primary Sources

Resources for Research in History

Primary Sources

Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied.

In historiography, a primary source (also called original source) is a document, recording, artifact, or other source of information that was created at the time under study, usually by a source with direct personal knowledge of the events being described. It serves as an original source of information about the topic.

Primary sources are distinguished from secondary sources, which cite, comment on, or build upon primary sources, though the distinction is not a sharp one. "Primary" and "secondary" are relative terms, with sources judged primary or secondary according to specific historical contexts and what is being studied. [From Wikipedia]

Finding Primary Sources

To find primary sources at Stony Brook, use STARS, the Library Catalog. 

You can include various words in your search that will help you locate primary source material.  A good general word to include would be sources.

For example, if you are looking for primary sources on slavery, you can do a KEYWORD ANYWHERE search in STARS for salvery and sources.

Also try these Library of Congress subject headings that are often used for primary sources:

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Personal narratives

Microform Collections at Stony Brook

Primary source collections include:

 

  • Early American Imprints (1639-1800)
  • Early American Books (1801-1819)
  • Early American Newspapers
  • American Culture Series
  • American Periodical Series
  • U.S. Presidential Papers
  • British Sessional Papers
  • Oberlin College Anti-Slavery Collection
  • Columbia University Oral History Collection
  • Cornell University Collection of Women's Rights Pamphlets
  • Selections from Archivo General de Indias

Special Collections & University Archives

Special Collections and University Archives select, acquire, preserve and provide access to rare, valuable, and scarce primary and secondary materials  in a variety of formats in support of the educational and research endeavors of Stony Brook University's students, faculty, and staff.

The department also extends its services to researchers in the wider geographic region, nationally, and internationally. 

The collection includes: books, manuscripts, and maps dating from the 15th century; the University Archives; audio/visual materials;  and a digital repository. All are welcome to explore the library's unique collections.

Digital Primary Source Collections at Stony Brook

Library Databases - Historic Newspapers

Newspapers in Microforms at Stony Brook

Major Historical Sets

  • Early American Newspapers – Microfilm A565
  • Early American Newspapers, 1704-1820 – Microprint 4
  • Underground Newspaper Collection* – Microfilm A178 [1963-1985]

Index to Underground Newspaper Collection: Microforms Library Z6944.U5 B4 [1963-1985]

  • Alternative Press Collection* – Microfilm A178 [1986 – present]

Alternative press. A guide to the microform collection Z6944.U5 B4 [1986-present]

Other Major Papers

  • New York Herald [1840-1919] – Microfilm A1
  • New York Tribune / Daily Tribune / Herald Tribune [1841-1966] Microfilm 123
  • Christian Science Monitor [1908-1925, 1960-present] Microfilm A26

Major Foreign Newspapers

  • The Times (London, England) [1788-present] – Microfilm A6
  • Le Monde (Paris, France) [1944-present] – Microfilm A4
  • Le Temps (Paris, France : 1861) [1861-1942] – Microfilm A3
  • Pravda (Moscow, Russia) [1917,1921-1975] – Microfilm A161

African-American Newspapers

  • New York Amsterdam News (1919-present) – Microfilm A128
  • Chicago Defender (1905-1966) – Microfilm A395
  • Pittsburgh Courier [weekly] (1923-1947) – Microfilm A238

Special Collections

Have historic newspapers for Long Island.  Original newsprint copies and microfilm.  Most but not all titles are in STARS.  Consult with Kristen or Jason.

Indexes

ONLINE

PRINT

  • New York Times: Newspaper Indexes AI21 .N44 [1851- present]
  • The Times (London, England) Newspaper Indexes AI21.T5 [1790-present]
  • Christian Science Monitor: Newspaper Indexes AI21.c3 [1946-1994]
  • Le Monde: Newspaper Indexes AI21.m6 [1944-1968]
  • Wall Street Journal: Newspaper Indexes HG1.W26 [1955-present]
  • Washington Post: Newspaper Indexes AI21.W33 W36 [1971-1995]
  • Newsday: Newspaper Indexes AI21.N5 [1977-1985]
  • Alternative Press Index: Main Stacks [1969-5 years ago-ish].

Card Catalog Drawer

Located at the Reference Desk.  Indexes newspapers by state/region.

Primary Sources on the Web

Historic Magazines & Journals

American Periodicals Series

Over 1,100 American magazines spanning 200 years and covering nearly every aspect of American culture, especially its history, science, literature, music, legal structures, agriculture, theater, and politics. Titles range from Benjamin Franklin's General Magazine (first published in 1741) and America's first scientific journals, Medical Repository, as well as Scientific American, to literary and professional journals, specialized titles, and such well-known popular magazines as Vanity Fair, Ladies' Home Journal and The Dial.

Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature

To find magazine and journal articles between 1880 and 1980.  Readers' Guide is located in the Central Reading Room (CRR).  When you enter the CRR, it will be on the wall to your immediate left, at call number AI3 .R483.

Each volume of Readers' Guide is indexed by Subject.  Under each subject, there will be a list of article titles, with abbreviations for the magazine or journal in which the article is located, the date of the issue, and the volume and page number(s).

When you find an article, you need to then check in STARS to see if the library has the magazine/journal for the date of the article. (I receommend using the JOURNAL CATALOG part of STARS.  Once you find the magazine, check the "Summary Holdings" to see if we have the date you need.

For example, if you find an article from Time magazine from April 1957, search the JOURNAL CATALOG for Time.  When you click on the link for Time, you will see various Summary Holdings for:

  • Microfiche (1965-1974,1982-)
  • Microfilm (1923-1956,1960-1964,1975-1981)
  • Print (1957-March 1975,Oct. 1975-1980,1982-). 

April 1957 would be available, then, in the Print version, which is located in the Main Stacks at call number AP2 .T37 OVERSIZE x.

You will also see a link for online versions.  You can check this to see if the magazine/journal is available for your date.  Please keep in mind, however, that most magazines and journals online will only go back to about 1980.

JSTOR

While JSTOR is often used for secondary sources, keep in mind that each journal in JSTOR goes back to its first issue.  Many journals go back into the 19th century, and a few go back as far as the 17th and 18th centuries.  So, it can also be used as a primary source.

Google Books

In addition to having full-text copies of many pre-1923 books, Google Books also contains issues of various periodicals from the 19th and 20th centuries.

First issue of Life magazine from November 23, 1936.

Microform Collections

Some of the major microforms that include historic magazines and journals are:

  • Early American Imprints (1639-1800)
  • American Culture Series

For more information on these collections, see the Microform Collections at Stony Brook section above.

Audio and Visual Resources

There are an increasing number of excelent web sites that have audio-visual proimary source material.

Internet Archive - Probably the best overall collection of audio-visual material that could be used for primary sources. The Archive currently contains almost 400,000 moving images and nearly 700,000 audio items, along with software and other material.

YouTube - Great resource for finding speeches and hidtoric news items, as well as musical and cinematic trasures.