Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later.
Primary sources are characterized not by their format but rather by the information they convey and their relationship to the research question. The interpretation and evaluation of these sources becomes the basis for other research--your research!
Archives are organizations that collect the records of individuals, families, or other organizations. Each archive describes the particular records that they focus on collecting and preserving in a collection policy. Each archive, whether large or small, manages unique records. There are archives solely dedicated to architecture, theater costumes, comics books, cars, and menus! Archivists work to ensure trustworthy representation and preservation of primary source documents for special interest groups.
The resources on this page will help you determine which organization holds records of interest to you, and how to access them.
There are thousands of archives and repositories that hold primary source materials for research. Some allow in-person visitations only, however many institutions provide information about their holdings online. These links were chosen based on the availability of remote access of primary source materials. Please keep in mind that many archives can be contacted for further research support regarding materials that cannot or have not been digitized.
Search All Subjects:
ArchiveGrid is a portal to archival materials that are contributed to WorldCat. Over 1,000 different archival institutions are represented.
Calisphere is a searchable digital collections interface that connects you to collections of California libraries, archives, and museums.
Europeana is a portal to digitized collection items from European museums, libraries, and archives.
The Library of Congress Digital Collections provides access to print, pictorial and audio-visual collections.
NYPL Digital Collections allows access to content from across all their divisions including the Dorot Jewish Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Maps Division, Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division, Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Art and Artifacts Division, music, dance and theatre divisions, and more.
Online Archive of California is a research gateway to unique and historical materials at archives, libraries, and museums throughout California. Search results can be filtered to see only online items.
Select African American, Latin American, Native American, or Asian American History Resources:
African American Oral Histories accessible online from the Oral History Center at the University of Louisville, the National Visionary Leadership Project, and the UCLA Center for Oral History Research, Behind the Veil collection at Duke University.
Asian American Archival Collections accessible online at the Southeast Asian Archive at UC Irvine Libraries, South Asian American Digital Archive, Houston Asian American Archives oral histories, and the New York Historical Society's digital resources on Chinese American Exclusion/Inclusion.
The Densho Digital Archive holds interviews, photos, documents, and newspapers that document the Japanese American experience from immigration in the early 1900s through redress in the 1980s with a particular focus on the World War II mass incarceration.
The Libraries and Archives of the Autry hold unique, rare and significant primary and secondary resources focusing on the peoples and cultures of the American West. Their collection database online searches the Braun Research Library and Autry Library holdings of rare books, serials, maps, photographs, artwork, sound recordings, and manuscript collections.
The LLILAS Benson Digital Collections include the archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America, the Human Rights Documentation Initiative, audio programs related to the Mexican American community and their concerns from 1976-1982, oral histories of Latinos and Latinas in WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War generations, and more.
Native Americans Collection on Calisphere is a curated collection where you can search or browse within specific tribes.
Southern Labor Archive: Georgia State University's Southern Labor Archives presents the documentary heritage of Southern workers and their unions, as well as that of workers and unions having a historic relationship to the region.
Featured Human Rights Resource:
Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) at the University of Texas (UT) Libraries is committed to the preservation of fragile and vulnerable records of human rights struggles worldwide, the promotion and secure usage of human rights archival materials, and the advancement of human rights research and advocacy around the world. The portal allows you to search materials from UT human rights collections, Free Burma Rangers, Genocide Archive of Rwanda, Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive, Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, Texas After Violence Project, and WITNESS.
California State Archives (Sacramento) lists descriptions of their collections online at the Online Archive of California. Collections include and are not limited to: Assembly Education Committee Records, Assembly Higher Education Committee Records, Board of Education Records, Higher Education Master Plan Review Commission Records, Postsecondary Education Commission Records, and the Senate Education Committee Records.
A list of all state archives can be found here.
Federal Records relating to education can be searched and viewed through the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website. Records are held in various national archive locations across the U.S. Collections include and are not limited to: Federal Records of the Office of Education, General Records of the Department of Education, Records of the National Institute of Education [NIE].
Letters and correspondence of historical figures in education can be searched by name in some of the 'all subject' links above. For example, the personal papers of “G. Stanley (Granville Stanley), 1844-1924” are largely at Clark University in Massachusetts or the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. The personal papers for “Claxton, P. P. (Philander Priestley), 1862-1957” are held in Tennessee State Library and Archives.
Presidential Libraries may also hold unique primary sources relating to education legislation, program development, and work-related correspondence.
These links were selected to support SUA student coursework and are not all encompassing. We're happy to add more that specifically relate to your coursework! Other research resources may already be available to you in the Ikeda Library catalog and database subscriptions.
What are Archives and Archivists? The Society of American Archivists (SAA) is North America's oldest and largest national archival professional organization. Members are active in working groups, task forces, and committees including outreach. Their website includes information for individuals interested in the field, and more.
LA Archives Bazaar is held yearly in October (celebrating National Archives Month) by the LA as Subject organization. It's a fun resource and informational fair where a diverse number of archives in or around Los Angeles County converge. You can talk to staff member specialists at various archives or listen in on organized talks.
Be an Honorary Archivist for a Day, or an Hour!
Archives projects that make unique historical records available are often grant-funded and rely on hundreds of volunteer hours. Various crowdsourcing projects allow individuals like you to contribute your time, knowledge, and brain power to help make archival collections richly described. Research and learn at the same time by participating in a project. Visit the links below to learn more.
Colored Conventions Project: Transcribe records of the nineteenth-century African American Colored Conventions Movement. The first batch of available documents includes well-known leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Henry Highland Garnet from the 1840s.
DIY History at the University of Iowa encourages transcription of documents from Civil War, World War I, and World War II diaries, cookbooks, building the transcontinental railroad, and more.
Students should practice research best practices and always cite the source materials found in archives. Each archive will have information on their preferred citation or attribution on their website. If not, students should contact a staff member of that archive ask what the preferred citation is.
Archival materials hold different copyrights, depending on the number of creators and when the work was made. Not all archival materials allow reproduction, and some may have limits on use. Always ask each archival repository about the allowed uses of materials. To learn more about copyright for SUA students, please read our Copyright and Intellectual Property LibGuide.