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U.S. History

Image via the National Archives

Finding Primary Sources

General tips for finding primary sources on historical topics:

  • Start with some solid secondary research (books, journal articles) on your topic to form a basis for diving into primary research. See what sources they cite. Going into a historical archive blind is usually a frustrating experience.
  • Look for local historical societies, public libraries, or museums. Google is often the best place to start for these searches.
  • Consider the type of material that would be most useful for your topic and what perspectives you would be interested in. It's one thing to have a contemporary newspaper's account of an event, but what else could you learn by looking at a diary describing the same event?
  • Ask for help! Archival collections can seem like big, confusing, messy places (they often are!). Set up a research appointment with an archivist or librarian before you arrive. They might even be able to locate some materials for you. Don't be shy!
  • The Archive of Americana (left) or American Memory (below) are great places to look for primary sources on topics related to almost any aspect of U.S. history.

Selected U.S. History Archives & Research Sources

U.S Presidents