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Dillon - National History Day: Primary Sources

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are first hand accounts of an event.  Some examples include: newspaper articles; letters; diaries; interviews; laws; treaties; government reports; census records; manuscripts; maps; photographs; audio/video recordings; and many other types.

NHD Primary Source Websites

National History Day Primary Source Websites - U.S. - From NHD website, provides a comprehensive listing of U.S. history primary source websites.

National History Day Primary Source Websites - World - From NHD website, provides a comprehensive listing of world history primary source websites.

National History Day Primary Sources - Photos, Maps and Other Images - From NHD website, provides a listing of websites offering photos, maps, advertisements, cartoons, posters and other images. 

National History Day Primary Sources - Music - From NHD website, provides sheet music, audio recordings and other musical artifacts.  

Primary Sources - Archives

An archive is a collection of historical documents and records generally held in a library, museum or government building.  The following archives are held in the Library of Congress archives and the U.S. National Archives.

Library of Congress - The largest digital record of U.S. History.

American Memory - From the Library of Congress archives, American Memory provides a digital record of American History.  Contains manuscripts, prints, photographs, posters, maps, sound recordings, motion pictures, books and pamphlets pertaining to U.S. history and cultures.

National Archives - From the U.S. National Archives, site provides a comprehensive collection of U.S. documents including letters, photographs, video/audio recordings, drawings, maps, treaties and other material from U.S. history.

Our Documents - From the U.S. National Archives, site provides images and information on 100 milestone documents in U.S. history.

Other Primary Source Websites

Avalon Project Documents - From Yale University, site provides primary documents pertaining to U.S. and World history, law and diplomacy (from ancient times to present).  

World Digital Library (WDL) - Developed by the U.S. Library of Congress and in partnership with Universities and archives of other countries, site contains significant primary source materials from other countries and cultures.

German Propaganda Archive - From Calvin College, site provides a collection of translated propaganda materials from Nazi and East German eras.  Includes speeches, articles, pamphlets, photographs, posters and other materials.  

American Rhetoric - From the University of Texas, site provides full-text transcriptions of 100 significant American political speeches of 20th and 21st centuries.

Famous Trials - From the Kansas City Law School at the University of Missouri, site provides a comprehensive collection of materials relating to famous trials, from Socrates to Moussaoui (9/11 trial).  Includes original essays, images, primary documents, maps, transcript excerpts, video clips, court decisions and other materials.

American Slave Narratives - From University of Virginia, contains photographs and narratives of former slaves interviewed from 1936-1938.  

Civil Rights on Television 1950-1970 - From University of Virginia, contains video and written transcripts of oral histories of those affected by the Civil Rights Era.

Life After the Holocaust - From the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, contains audio files, written transcripts and photographs of Holocaust survivors.

Veterans Remember - From the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, contains oral histories from veterans of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War Era, Gulf War and War on Terror.

LIFE Magazine Photo Archive - Hosted by Google, site provides access to millions of photographs taken by LIFE Magazine from 1750s to present.  Photos include bibliographic information.  

Other places to find primary sources...

SALEM HISTORY - Access E-Encyclopedias from the Milestone Documents series:

  • Milestone Documents in American History
  • Milestone Documents in World History
  • Milestone Documents of World Religions

The Milestone Documents series provides full-text copies and analysis of significant documents in U.S. history, world history and world religions.  

Print versions of the Salem History's Milestone Document Series are available in the reference section of the LSA library.




PERIODICALS - Magazines and newspaper articles written in the time period can provide first hand reported accounts of an event.  ProQuest Newsstand provides newspaper articles from 1977 - present.  EBSCO: MasterFile Premier provides magazine articles from 1975 - present, as well as more than 100,000 full-text primary source documents, photos and maps.


VIDEO - Interviews with full transcripts (for all category types)  and primary source video footage (for documentaries) can be found on NBCLearn.  You will need to create a free account to download the videos for use in documentaries.