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Primary Source Guide for History Students: Online Collections - All Subjects

Created to primarily help OWU history students find, evaluate, and use primary source materials located in the OWU Libraries and beyond.

Where to Find Specialized Digital Collections


Digitizing special collections is a huge trend with colleges, universities and museums. If you or your professor know of a place that specializes in a subject or time period you are researching, try looking at their institution's or library's web site to see if they have digitized collections or what they might call a "digital or institutional repository."



Local Historical Societies also tend to digitize collections or finding aids to their collection.

5 Great Primary Source Collection Sites

Digital Public Library of America
From the DPLA's web site, "The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science." One can search/browse by date, place, format, exhibition, etc.
RUSA’s Using Primary Sources on the Web
The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) have put together this guide that specifically addresses the process of finding, using and citing primary sources online. While it does provide several suggestions for where to find primary sources, it is standout for its advice for evaluating and citing primary source documents and web sites. Don’t forget to click the “more information” or “examples” links found throughout the web site for additional examples and tips.

Center for History and New Media

Their teaching and learning section includes some great digital collections covering US, World, and Women's history. Includes great resources for future teachers as well. 


History Matters 

History Matters is a wonderful web site put together for students as well as educators for US History. It has a great “Advance Search” option that allows you to limit your search by time period, subject, and type of resource. Sometimes it is easier to just pick limits rather than enter a search term. It is included here because one of its major sections is devoted to showing visitors how to analyze different types of primary sources - useful regardless of your subject area.
Making Sense of Evidence
This section helps visitors learn how to analyze the different types of primary sources (photographs, object, letters, oral history, etc.) by providing guides, tutorials, interactive quizzes, and interviews by professional scholars and experts.


Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has a wealth of digitized collections containing everything from print to audiovisual items. Though heavily focused on American History, if you "Browse by Topic" you will find several links for collections with an International or World History focus.