Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
What are primary sources?
Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event or topic by someone who has direct knowledge or experience with it.
Examples of primary sources include:
- Research data, clinical reports, case studies
- Newspaper articles
- Creative works such as photographs, video, music
Select Primary Source Databases
If you are researching a particular population or topic, be sure to check the related Research Guide for more resources. You can also visit the Research Guides on Primary Sources for helpful information and links.
NOTE: Newspaper databases are in the Databases section of this guide.
Archive of 550,000 high-quality, digitized images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences. Images may be downloaded and manipulated in customized mini-collections. Also searches for images in JSTOR's collection of scholarly articles.
Civil Right and Social Justice
HeinOnline’s Civil Rights database brings together a diverse offering of publications covering civil rights in the United States as their legal protections and definitions are expanded to cover more and more Americans. Containing hearings and committee prints, legislative histories on the landmark legislations, CRS and GAO reports, briefs from major Supreme Court cases, and publications from the Commission on Civil Rights, this database allows users to educate themselves on the ways our civil rights have been strengthened and expanded over time, as well as how these legal protections can go further still.
Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)
Brings together the collections of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science.
Europeana provides access to millions of books, music, artworks and more. Europeana is an initiative of the European Union.
Gale Primary Sources
Provides access and simultaneous cross searching of six Gale primary source databases: The 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, The Making of the Modern World, The Times Digital Archive, Sabin Americana, 1500-1926, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, and Witchcraft in Europe and America (Archives Unbound). Gale Primary Sources also allows researchers to visualize search data by term frequency. Researchers can search all six databases at once using this portal, or access each individually by visiting the appropriate page in the A-Z list.
Gallica digital library from the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Over a million documents accessible for free : Books, Manuscripts, Maps, Images, Newspapers, Magazines, Periodicals, Sound records, Music, Scores, etc.
HistoryMakers Digital Archive
The HistoryMakers was founded to address the lack of documentation and preservation of the African American historical record. It captures – one person at a time – the untold personal stories of both well-known and unsung African Americans, and by creating a priceless video collection giving those involved their special place in history.
The testimonies captured in The HistoryMakers Collection – conducted in homes and offices across the United States and abroad – reveal the broad scope of narratives of African American men and women who have made significant contributions to American life, history, and culture during the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
Access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format; includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages
Library of Congress Digital Collections
Access online collections: view maps and photographs; read letters, diaries and newspapers; hear personal accounts of events; listen to sound recordings; and watch historic films.
New York Historical Society: Manuscript Collections Relating to Slavery
Fourteen collections relating to slavery in America and the Atlantic Slave Trade, including diaries, account books, letters, and more.
New York Public Library Digital Collections
Explore 890,046 items digitized from The New York Public Library's collections.This site is a living database with new materials added every day, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming video, and more.
North American Women's Letters and Diaries
Colonial-1950. Fulltext primary sources. The experiences of 1,325 women in 150,000 pages of diaries and letters. Includes biographies and an extensive annotated bibliography of the sources.
Oral History Online
Fulltext and citations. Indexes more than 2,700 collections of Oral History in English from around the world. Contains almost 281,000 pages of full-text by close to 10,000 individuals from all walks of life. Also has pointers to 4,100 audio and video files.
Women and Social Movements, International: 1840 to Present
Women and Social Movements, International is a landmark collection of primary materials. Through the writings of women activists, their personal letters and diaries, and the proceedings of conferences at which pivotal decisions were made, this collection lets you see how women’s social movements shaped much of the events and attitudes that have defined modern life.
World Digital Library
The World Digital Library (WDL) is a project of the U.S. Library of Congress, carried out with the support of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), and in cooperation with libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions, and international organizations from around the world. The WDL makes it possible to discover, study, and enjoy cultural treasures and significant historical documents on one site, in a variety of ways. Content on the WDL includes books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, journals, prints and photographs, sound recordings, and films.