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Free Digital Archive Collections  

Need primary sources? Don't have the funds to travel the world and explore archives? Then use this guide to find archive collections that have been digitized and made available on the web!
Last Updated: Dec 5, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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What are Primary Sources?

Most of the resources found in the collections listed in this guide are primary sources. A primary source is an item produced at the time of an event. It can be a letter, journal, newspaper article, painting, book, speech, or anything else produced by people who are leaving a record of their own personal experiences. 

Be aware, however, that some of these collections may include secondary sources. These are sources that are produced by people who were not there. Many books and newspaper articles are secondary sources–they are reporting or reflecting back on events that the author does not have first hand knowledge or experience of. 

Confused? Click here to learn more about primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.


Using this Guide

This guide to freely accessible digital archives collections is meant to be a starting point in your search for primary sources. There are many more sites out there, and digitized collections do not begin to touch the information that is still sitting on archives' shelves. You may also want to browse this guide before picking a topic- knowing what is available to you can help you formulate better questions. 

Finally, this guide is not meant for historians only. Inside, you will find links to maps, speeches, scientific papers, and much more. And remember, if you need help or just want to discuss your research and get advice, you can always visit your friendly reference librarian!

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