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Primary Sources  

Last Updated: Feb 24, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Primary Sources - Definition

Primary sources are artifacts that provide first-hand knowledge. Primary sources are original materials and can vary depending on the field of study.

Photo Credit: CC Wikimedia,

Primary sources can include:

  • Personal narratives, diaries,  memoirs, correspondence.
  • Speeches and letters.
  • Government documents.
  • Treaties, declarations and laws.
  • Sheet music, works of art, photographs and maps.
  • Films, television programs and video footage.
  • Newspaper articles.
  • Journal articles that present original research.

Primary Sources - Online Resources

  • Canadiana
    a full text online collection of books and pamphlets documenting Canadian history from the first European contact to the late 19th century. The collection is particularly strong in literature, women's history, native studies, travel and exploration, and the history of French Canada.
  • Peel's Prairie Provinces
    The University of Alberta Libraries own Peel's Prairie Provinces provides access to digitized newspapers, postcards and other ephemera from the Canadian prairies.
  • Library and Archives Canada
  • American Memory - Library of Congress
    American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience.
  • Europeana
    Europeana is a single access point to millions of books, paintings, films, museum objects and archival records that have been digitized throughout Europe. It is an authoritative source of information coming from European cultural and scientific institutions.
  • British Library Online Gallery
    Search digital collections of the British Library and view historical documents such as the Magna Carta in digital format.
  • HathiTrust Digital Library
    The HathiTrust Digital Library brings together the immense collections of partner institutions in digital form. Not all content is available as on-line full text. Check the "Full View Only"check box to search full-text items only.
  • Harvard University Libraries - Digital Editions
    A vast collection of trial transcripts, photos, maps, broadsides, pamphlets from different time periods and regions.
  • Yale University Libraries
    A linked list to the broad digitized material available via Yale University Libraries.
  • Internet Archive
    The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization with the purpose to offer permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. Not all materials are available in full text.
  • Gallica - National Library of France
    Digitized documents, periodicals, manuscripts books and writings from the National Library of France.

Photo Credits

Photo Credit: Proclamation Canadian Confederation, Illuminated Manuscript, Newspaper CC Wikimedia; Vintage postcards: FidgetResources, postcards, radio and microphone: Mediajunkie; Vintage envelopes: Fuzzimo.


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