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History

Resources for researching topics in history

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are "fundamental, authoritative documents relating to a subject, ...e.g., original records, contemporary documents, etc." (Young, Heartsill, ed. The ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science. Chicago: American Library Association, 1983, p.176). Primary source documents are first-hand accounts by a direct participant or observer and may include letters, diaries, interviews, photographs, films, maps, government documents, and more.

For the arts, history, and humanities, original primary source documents usually are housed in museums, archives, restricted library collections, and government offices. Reproductions of primary source documents often can be found in online digital collections, microform collections, books, and other secondary works.

For the sciences, primary sources usually refer to original accounts of a research study. Find a fuller explanation in the SUNY Albany resource below.

Selected Primary Source Databases and Collections

Additional primary source collections can be found on relevant subject guides and webpages, including Women's Studies.

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