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HIST 4960: Senior Seminar

Overview and review of sources for students in History 4960

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Common Primary Source Locations

Original Manuscripts

  • Privately held papers
  • Donated / Acquired by Archives
    • Museums, Libraries, Research Institutions, etc.

Official Documents

  • Government Archives
    • Can be extremely thorough, organized, and accessible
    • Can be extremely incomplete and disorganized as individual filing cabinets/hard drives
  • U.S. government sites are mostly indexed by Google, but other access points include:
  • Copies held by individuals, organizations, related agencies, etc.

Reprinted in formal publications

  • Published volumes containing original texts
  • Search library catalogs (WorldCat is the most comprehensive)


  • Increasing, usually starting with most popular works in  largest/wealthiest collections
  • Significant government collections free on government websites
  • Efforts by individual archives/institutions to digitize specific collections
  • Some collections only available for a fee (copyright and organization)
  • Access:  search Google, WorldCat, or visit the web page of appropriate archives
  • Additional strategy: identify an archives or institution which possesses materials on the topic, and search their holdings
    • Not all archival documents are searchable/retrievable by Google or WorldCat

Archival Materials

The WorldCat database has a material type of "Archival Material" that is often primary source material. Much of this material is only available in one library as an original document.  Some has been digitized and made available online. Some may be requested via Interlibrary Loan.