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What are Primary Sources?
Primary sources provide researchers with a rich array of materials from which they can better understand a time period or a particular issue. Primary sources are materials that were created during the time that you are studying or by someone who was alive at a particular time who is describing their own experiences and direct observations.
Examples of primary sources include: newspapers, magazines, speeches, letters and correspondence, memoirs, diaries, photographs, political cartoons, records and publications of governments and businesses, and objects.
This guide will help you learn how to find primary sources in the UVM Libraries collection both in print and online. Use the tabs along the type to explore recommended resources and methods for locating different types of sources.
General Starting Points
American Decades Primary Sources
Cross-disciplinary source spanning the 20th century. Each volume in the set includes full or excerpted primary sources representing the seminal issues, themes, movements and events from a decade. Includes oral histories, songs, speeches, advertisements, TV, play and movie scripts, letters, laws , legal decisions, newspaper articles, cartoons, recipes, and more. Navigate to the Table of Contents and select different time periods by using the pull-down.
This resource provides images of artworks and cultural artifacts of a wide variety of types, including paintings, sculpture, photographs, prints, furniture, textiles, ceramics, and more from around the world. The collection can be searched by creator, time period, type of work or by region of origin.
British History Online
This resource is a collection of digitized versions of primary and secondary sources relating to British history from the 11th through the 19th centuries. This is a digital collection including extensive resources on Parliamentary, legal, church, and local histories.
Digital Public Library of America
Access images, videos, and other cultural objects from museums and archives across the US. Consult image details for information about usage rights.
Early American Imprints, Series I (1639-1800)
This resource contains primary source materials related to American history, literature, culture, and more. Items include digital images of books (hymnals, literature, travelogues, diaries, cookbooks, maps, textbooks, and more), broadsides, and pamphlets published in the United States between 1639 and 1800.
Early American Imprints, Series II (1801-1819)
This resource contains primary source materials related to American history, literature, culture, and more. Items include digital images of books (hymnals, literature, travelogues, diaries, cookbooks, maps, textbooks, and more), broadsides, and pamphlets published in the United States between 1801 and 1819.
Early English Books Online
This resource provides searchable access to digitized literary and historical works in all subjects printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and British North America, as well as works in English printed elsewhere, from 1475-1700.
Portal to primary sources on all periods of European History. Many are transcription only (not images of the original).
Library of Congress Digital Collections
This resource provides digital access to a wide variety of primary source materials relating to all periods of American history, 1490-Present. The collection includes photographs, maps, posters, texts, pamphlets, sheet music, sound and video recordings, and more.
Nineteenth Century Collections Online
This resource includes a wide variety of primary source materials from 1780-1925 on topics ranging from popular culture, colonialism, literature, religion, science, politics, and women.
World's Fairs and Expositions
This resource includes manuscript materials, images, magazine articles, books, and other materials on World's Fairs held between 1834 and 1940.
Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000
This resource provides primary and secondary resources related to the history of women in social movements in the U.S. between 1600 and 2000.
Using Catalogs to Find Primary Sources
Numerous primary sources in the form of older print materials and reprinted rare materials can be located in the UVM Collection and beyond by using Library Catalogs.
Library Catalogs (such as the UVM Library Catalog or WorldCat) use predefined terms to describe primary sources. Among the most commonly used terms are:
- Personal Narratives
When searching for materials on a topic in Catalogs use keywords to describe the topic and a term in the subject line to describe the type of material you want to find: