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
- Original documents can be found by consulting the Archives and Research Collections (ARC) website.
- Reproductions can be found by checking the library catalogue.
Use specific words to locate primary sources 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
Microfiche reproductions from the time of the first European settlers to the 1920s. Items can be searched in the Library Catalogue by entering relevant KEYWORDS and adding and CIHM to the search
Historical Digital Newspapers
A collection of well-known francophone news sources, available as text or PDF files.
Coverage among the communities varies.
Times Digital Archive [U.K.]
The Guardian (1821-2003) [U.K.]
The Observer (1791-2003) [U.K.]
Maps, Government Information, and Data Centre (MADGIC)
This site has a wealth of fascinating heritage materials.
For more assistance, go to the Government Information Webpages
Available on the Internet
Original documents are usually unique, so they are kept in a place of preservation such as archives and libraries Archives Canada, Library and Archives Canada, ARCHEION, and Archives of Ontario. Many of these institutions have undertaken digitization projects to make their holdings more accessible. This is only a select list of websites that have primary sources available free on the Web.
Arctic Blue Books online is a searchable version of Andrew Taylor's unique index to the 19th Century British Parliamentary Papers concerned with the Canadian Arctic.
Various speeches by Canadian Prime Ministers
The penal press is a primary source of prison history from within. Written and produced by prisoners, it provides insight into how convicts viewed the penal justice apparatus, its policies and its practices. Focuses on Canadian publications, but accepts newsletters from other parts of the world.
Centre for Research Libraries
The Center for Research Libraries (CRL)
A great institution to check for historical documents, newspapers, journals, archives and other sources. "The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is a consortium of North American universities, colleges, and independent research libraries. The consortium acquires and preserves newspapers, journals, documents, archives, and other traditional and digital resources for research and teaching and makes them available to member institutions through interlibrary loan and electronic delivery." Carleton University Library is a mermber of CRL.