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What is a Primary Source?

image of man and tire

Hollem, Howard R., photographer.
[between 1941 and 1945]
from: American Memory

Primary sources provide the first record of a particular subject or event. These sources could be a writer's notebook, a photograph, a map, or any other form of documentation and are the raw materials that researchers and scholars study. Primary sources can be published or unpublished. The library's general collection includes published primary sources such as autobiographies and newspaper articles.

Special collections of primary sources can be found in historical societies, museums, and libraries. The Internet provides a wealth of access to primary sources on a wide array of topics.