Contact Information
  • Librarian: Celestina Savonius-Wroth
  • Location: Herman B Wells Library E560
  • Phone: (812) 855-1336
Libraries & Subjects
last updated: 8/14/2012

Finding Collections of Primary Sources

 From the first meeting of your first History seminar, you'll be starting to think about working with primary sources. So, how do you find interesting primary sources to study? Obviously, this depends largely on the period and geographic area you're interested in, and your first resource will be your seminar instructor. When you discuss your ideas for a seminar paper with him or her, be sure to ask for suggestions about sources. Subject and Area specialists in the Library are another good resource. Feel free to ask us for advice at any stage of your project.

The Indiana University Libraries collections are rich in primary source materials from all areas and periods.

The Lilly Library holds rare books and manuscripts, with particular strengths in history of science, New World exploration, the French Revolution, Latin America, children's literature, film, and other areas.

The Herman B Wells (Main) Library also holds interesting primary source material. You can do an advanced keyword search in IUCAT and limit searches by date, to find published primary sources, or limit the format to "Manuscripts" to find unpublished materials. There are numerous collections of ephemeral and archival materials on microfilm. Some of these are listed on our Selected History Microfilms page, but you might want to visit the microforms collection (located on the 2nd floor of the Main Library, with Government Documents) in person, and browse the guides to microfilm collections, or see below for how to use WorldCat for to find microform collections at IU.

While you may or may not be able to travel to other libraries or archives during a semester-long seminar, most libraries will lend primary sources on microfilm or microfiche. Search WorldCat to find primary source materials at other libraries (here's how--you can also use this as a way to find sources on microforms at IU).

More and more primary source materials are being digitized. Through the Library, you have access to a number of large collections of digitized primary sources. Many are listed on the Libraries' Resources by Subject page for History. Some of the big ones are:


19th Century Historical United States Newspapers

Acta Sanctorum

African-American Newspapers: The 19th Century

American Broadsides and Ephemera

American Periodicals Series Online

British Newspapers 1600-1900

Early American Newspapers

Early English Books Online

Eighteenth Century Collections Online

Eighteenth Century Journals

Hispanic American Newspapers 1808-1980

Making of Modern Law

Making of the Modern World

Mass Observation Online

Patrologia Latina Database

Periodicals Archive Online

ProQuest Historical Newspapers

Sabin Americana 1500-1926

The Sixties: Primary Documents and Personal Narratives 1960 - 1974

Thesaurus Linguae Graecae


And of course, Google Books, with its academic counterpart, Hathi Trust, now provide access to fulltext and scanned page images of hundreds of thousands of out-of-copyright books and journals.


last updated: 8/14/2012