A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the period being studied. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Also included are works created later by an eyewitness or a participant in an event, e.g. memoirs/autobiographies.
Types of primary sources:
- Original documents (including excerpts and translations): diaries, speeches, manuscrips, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records, ancient literature, magazine and newspaper articles.
- Creative works: poetry, drama, novels, printed music, sound recordings, art.
- Relics or artefacts: pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings.
- Statistics and raw data
- Reproductions, facsimiles or replicas of original documents, creative works or artefacts are also acceptable as primary sources.
Examples of primary sources:
Finding primary sources in the library collection
1. Original documents can be found by consulting the Archives and Research Collections (ARC) website.
2. Reproductions can be found by checking the library catalogue.
Use specific words to locate primary sourcees in the Library catalogue, such as: correspondence, sources, diaries, letters, personal naratives. KEYWORD search examples:
- [PERSON’S NAME] and s:correspondence
- [PERSON’S NAME] and s:diaries
- [PERSON’S NAME] and s:letters
- [KEYWORD] and s:sources
In the library's electronic and microform collections
Provides economic information and profiles on countries from around the world.
An online archive of digitized, full-image journal articles offering access to international scholarly literature in the humanities and social sciences disciplines. An excellent source for Primary Source journal articles. Articles date back 1802.
A collection of documents from around the world on the topic of slavery.
Available on the Internet
The African Online Digital Library (AODL) is a portal to multimedia collections about Africa.
Full-text of rare Africana, in English or translated into English. Searchable.
An African-led series of national public attitude surveys on democracy and governance in Africa
DISA is a freely accessible online scholarly resource focusing on the socio-political history of South Africa, particularly the struggle for freedom during the period from 1950 to the first democratic elections in 1994, providing a wealth of material on this fascinating period of the country’s history.
A digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.
A collection of articles, books, essays, documents, historical photos, and links for a broad range of historical subjects.
Directory of web sites for archives and libraries with primary sources.
Provides access to seven galleries of photographs, interviews, and documents that highlight traditions, cultures, and histories from Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, and Mauritania.
News and Newspapers
Provides more than 40 searchable African newspapers published in the 19th and 20th centuries. Featuring English- and foreign-language titles from Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, African Newspapers offers unparalleled coverage of the issues and events that shaped the continent and its peoples between 1800 and 1922.
First African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States. All 103 issues of the Freedom's Journal have been digitized and available here.
The Centre for Research Libraries (CRL) holds an extensive collection of foreign newspapers in microform including those from African nations. Borrow from CRL through Interlibrary Loans.
ARCHIVES, LIBRARIES and MUSEUMS
Project to preserve "the record of activities of U.S. organizations and individuals that supported African struggles for freedom ....during the period 1960-1994." "This project will focus mainly on smaller local and regional organizations....especially in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe."
Collection is interdisciplinary, with major strengths in the social sciences and broad representation of the humanities and sciences. Access to current periodicals from and about Africa, African newspapers, maps, African documents and government publications, and books in African history.
A structured vocabulary of 12,100 English terms in the field of African studies.
Provides information concerning the most important of collections, more than 175,000 volume, available at the libraries of the Berkeley campus of the University of California.
Web site from the Internet Archive, which archives web pages from state archives and university libraries. Find archived pages from the Africa Union, Doctors Without Borders, Slate (the e-magazine for example), etc. Institutions build, manage and their own web archive.
A wealth of books, newspapers, journals, archival collections, dissertations, government publications on microfilm and microfiche are available on interlibrary loan to CAMP members. Find holdings through the Centre for Research Libraries catalogue.
ICA's membership includes national archives in Africa and elsewhere. Has a directory of the regional African archival organizations.
IDRC is a Canadian Crown corporation that works with researchers from the developing world in their search for the means to build healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous societies. The IDRC Digital Library (IDL) is the Centre's institutional repository of research results. Library publications are available for Interlibrary Loan.
Africana Library's documentation collection contains valuable primary source materials, including copies of rare monographs, manuscripts, newspapers, and journal publications on microfilm and microfiche.
Repository for African and African American studies documentation and an educational outreach division of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University.
The scope is as wide as the continent of Africa itself; its subject matter ranges from art, history, literature, music, and religion to communications, management, and cooking.
Recognized as one of the world's largest and most comprehensive repositories for the documentation of the history and culture of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and other parts of the world.
Use the Smithsonian Online Catalog (SIRIS) to search for Anthropological fieldnotes, journals, manuscripts, photographs, moving images, sound recordings, artwork, maps and more than 60,000 digital images.
Excellent database resource for finding U.S. archival holdings on Africa.
Library devoted to the history, society and culture of people of African descent.
Independent human rights archive dedicated to documenting, supporting and promoting greater awareness of past and contemporary struggles for justice in South Africa.
Includes materials in all languages in the humanities and social sciences published in the nations of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal and Mali to South Africa and Lesotho. Most publications acquired are in English, French, Portuguese, or Afrikaans, with an increasing proportion of works in African languages.
Directory to archives (worldwide including African archives), primary sources and finding aids online, archival training / education sources, preservation information, international co-operation, archival associations, conferences, internet resources.