Selected Online Resources Organized by Topic
Alphabetical listing of primary source sites
What is a Primary Source?
Internet Resources:
About Primary Sources
Formats of Primary Sources
NHS Library Resources
Analyzing Primary Sources
Document Analysis Worksheets from NARA


What is a Primary source?

Think of a primary source as "firsthand evidence"; it is FROM the time, not ABOUT the time.  It is written by the participants or observers. It can also be an artifact of the time, or an actual image from the time itself.

Secondary Sources generally are those that give analysis or interpretation of an event.  Most encyclopedias and textbooks are secondary resources, although they may include primary sources.  Use secondary sources as background information; they will help in the interpretation of primary sources.

What do Primary Sources Look like? Where do I Find them?
     FORMAT            Where to FIND it
  • NHS Online Card Catalog
  • Minuteman Network
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Firsthand Descriptions
    Diaries / Journals, Speeches, Interviews, Letters / Memos, Manuscripts
  • Online resources
  • NHS Online Card Catalog
  • Minuteman Network
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Area museums, special libraries, historical societies, organizations
  • Government / Agency Records
  • NHS Books
  • Online resources
  • Microfilm collections in colleges, public libraries
  • Newspapers and Magazines
  • Online databases index articles back to 1980
  • New York Times online archive to 1857
    (Find the article on and then see Library Staff for access information)
  • NHS National Geographic back to 1958
  • NHS American Heritage back to 1954.
  • NHS Civil War Times magazine 
  • Microfilm collections in colleges, public libraries
  • Ask about Interlibrary Loan services.
  •  Music
    Sheet music, songbooks, recordings
  • NHS record collection (speeches, music of the time)
  • Minuteman Network
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Online resources
  • Art
    (artist is an eyewitness/ contemporary of the subject of the painting or photograph)
  • NHS art print colleciton
  • NHS art books
  • Library networks
  • Art museums
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    Our Library Resources

    NHS Web Catalog
         Search Strategies:  Try using keyword searches, combining your specific topic with these terms, on the advanced screen 
    Remember to browse the shelves and use the books' indexes.
    Art Prints
         Our collection of 600+ art prints are electronically searchable using the NHS online catalog.  They may be checked out for a period of one week.
    Record Collection
         The NHS record collection offers speeches, music from the time, poets reading their own works. Record players may be found through Technology Services; records may be borrowed for a week.
         National Geographic - Our collection dates back to issues in the 1950s.  Be sure to use the indexes.

         American Heritage - This is a magazine rich with historical information.  Much is primary, but some is secondary.  Be sure to use the indexes available.

         Civil War Times - this magazine specializes in the Civil War; our library's collection includes some indexes.


    About Primary Sources

    Why Study History Through Primary Sources From Fordham University
    Library Research Using Primary Resources From UC Berkely
    Created and Maintained By:
     Ann Perham, School Librarian
    Needham High School
    Neeham, Massachusetts