Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans (1639-1800)|
Searchable database of digitized early American books, pamphlets and broadsides published between 1639 and 1800. More Info...
Archives US newspapers from 1836 to 1922. Maintains a directory of US newspapers from 1690 to the present. More Info...
New York Times Historical File (1851- 2007)
Complete, searchable archive of the New York Times from 1851-2007 with full-page and article PDFs. More Info...
American State Papers
Presents the digitized edition of legislative and executive documents of the U.S.Congress from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. More Info...
US Congress. Congressional Serial Set.
Searchable, full text database of the reports, documents, and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives from 1817-1994. More Info...
Early English Books Online (EEBO)
Full text digital facsimiles of titles from the earliest printed works in the English language. More Info...
Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker (1801-1819)
Searchable database of digitized early American pamphlets, broadsides, books, state papers and governmental materials published between 1801 and 1819. More Info...
Presents images and information for advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines from 1911 to 1955. Focuses on five main subject areas: radio, television, transportation, beauty & hygiene, and World War II. More Info...
Consists of the archive of the British Pathe news corporation from 1896 to 1970. The archive covers history, social history, sports, news, and entertainment. More Info...
Archives images of medieval and renaissance manuscripts that unites resources from many institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly research. More Info...
Plowshares: Digital Archive for Peace Studies
Provides primary documents - including minutes, diaries, correspondence, pamphlets, newspapers and periodicals - ranging in date from the 1700s to the present. The archive chronicles the social justice efforts of the students and faculty of these colleges as well as the members of their affiliated historic peace-churches - Quakers, Mennonites and the Church of the Brethren. More Info...
What are primary sources?
Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period. A primary source reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. They include:
- Those items that describe events where the author is a participant or observer: diaries, letters, memos, journals, speeches, interviews, etc. Ex: Diary of Charles Rumley from St. Louis to Portland, 1862
- Photographs, audio and video recordings, and other electronic records that record an event. Ex: Oregon Politics Radio Disc Collection [sound recording], 1938-1958
- Records collected by government agencies such as birth and death records, marriage records, land deeds, census data, etc. Ex: 15th census, population, 1930. Oregon
- Records created by organizations or agencies, such as reports, minutes of meetings, bylaws, etc. Ex: The dawn of British trade to the East Indies as recorded in the Court Minutes of the East India Company, 1599-1603
- Memoirs and autobiographies. Ex: Autobiography of Samuel L. Campbell, 1824-1902 : frontiersman and Oregon pioneer : together with his summary of the Whitman Massacre.
- Material published at the time of an event, such as books, newspapers and magazine and journal articles. These are distinguished from secondary sources because they are contemporary. Ex: Jones, W. F. D. "An Oregonian Poet Hermit." Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, V. 25, issue 148, April 1895, pp. 75-378.
- Data collected by researchers, such as field notes, results of experiments, measurements, etc. Ex: Climatological data. Oregon.
Locating Primary Sources in the Library
The Millar Library has a large collection of reprinted or microfilmed primary source materials, including the collected writings of historical figures, government documents, diaries, collections of speeches, etc. Items owned by the Oregon Historical Society's Research Library are also searchable through our catalog.
Searching for primary source materials by subject
Subject headings allow you to search library catalogs for materials on a particular topic. Often subject heading searching can be more productive than searching by simple keywords. Copies of the complete set of the Library of Congress Subject Headings are available at the reference desk. After identifying the relevant subject heading, you can add subheadings that will retrieve primary sources. Some of the subheadings are:
early works to 1800
Conservationists Oregon Correspondence Women pioneers Colorado Diaries
Great Britain History Civil War, 1642-1649 Pamphlets
World War 1939-1945 England Personal Narratives
Searching for primary source materials by author
When looking for as materials related to a specific historical figure, do an author search in the catalog as well. Materials written by the person are considered primary sources. Materials produced by a corporation or organization are also primary sources, and those organizational names (ex: Hudson's Bay Company) can be searched as authors.
Searching Other Libraries' catalogs
Remember, too, that you are not just limited to what we own in our Library. Whenever you are searching, you have the option of expanding your results by clicking on the SUMMIT button in the upper right hand corner of the results screen. This automatically redoes your search in the SUMMIT catalog of the ORBIS/CASCADE Alliance. If you find an item in that catalog that you'd like to see, click on the "REQUEST THIS ITEM" link and follow the directions on the screen.
Locating government documents
The laws, rules, reports, statistics, court case decisions, treaties and other documents produced by the various branches of governments (both foreign and US) are primary sources. To locate US documents on your topic, you should try these resources:
Digitized and searchable online editions of the American State Papers and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.
The American State Papers, comprising a total of thirty-eight physical volumes, contain the legislative and executive documents of Congress during the period 1789 to 1838. The collection includes documents that cover the critical historical gap from 1789 to the printing of the first volume of the U.S. Serial Set in 1817. The books are arranged into ten topical classes (Foreign Relations, Indian Affairs, Finances, Commerce and Navigation, Military Afairs, Naval Affairs, Post Office Department, Public Lands, Claims, and Miscellaneous). These papers were compiled, printed and distributed between 1831 and 1861. Not all of the classes contain documents from the entire 1789-1838 period.
The U.S. Congressional Serial Set contains the House and Senate Documents and the House and Senate Reports bound by session of Congress. These publications began with the 15th Congress, 1st Session (1817). Documents before 1817 may be found in the American State Papers. In general, the Serial Set includes committee reports related to bills and other matters, presidential communications to Congress, treaty materials, certain executive department publications, and certain non-governmental publications.
Congressional Information Service
Information from 1970-present is indexed in Congressional Universe
Some full-text information is included in the database. If not, then to locate the document try a call number search in VIKAT for the SUDOC number that appears in the record. Included in Congressional Universe are legislative histories, hearings, bills, public laws, committee information, biographical information about members of Congress, etc.
Full text from 1985-present is searchable in Congressional Universe
Print copies from 1873/4-present located at J11 .R52 Govt Info Federal
The Congressional Record covers the proceedings and debates of Congress. While later issues are searchable through Congressional Universe, you should use the Congressional Record Index to find information in earlier issues. Page numbers in the index are proceeded by letters that indicate the four sections of the Congressional Record: House (H), Senate (S), Extension of Remarks (E), and Daily Digest (D).
For example, an entry followed by S7495 [2JN] indicates that the content appears in the June 2nd issue of the Congressional Record, in the Senate section, on page 7495.
Contents from 1994-present indexed online at http://catalog.gpo.gov/F
Contents from 1976-2003 located at Z1223 .A18
Contents from 1951-1975 located at Z1223 .A18
Contents from 1907-1939 located at Z1223 .A18 Govt Info Microfilm
First issued in 1895, this is the most comprehensive source for locating all kinds of U.S. government documents produced by Congress, the executive branch, independent agencies, government corporations and boards.
For help with locating earlier government documents, use these:
A Descriptive Catalogue of the Government Publications of the United States, September 5, 1774-March 4, 1881.
Z1223 .A 1885 | 2nd Floor
Provides a chronological list which gives the title, author and date of each document. The subject and name index at the end of the volume refers the user to the page on which the document is listed. The page must then be browsed to locate the entry or entries.
Document Catalogue, 1893-1940
Z1223 .A13 | 2nd Floor
A dictionary catalog listing publications by agency, subject, title, and author. Provides the best subject approach to government publications from 1893-1940. Each of the 25 volumes of the Catalogue covers approximately two years of government publishing activity.
Cumulative Title Index to United States Public Documents, 1789-1976
Z1223 .Z7 L47 | 2nd Floor
This 16-volume set contains an alphabetical listing of titles of book and series publications contained in the Public Documents Library of the Government Printing Office. The Cumulative Title Index includes only those titles which have been assigned a SuDoc number.
Checklist of United States Public Documents, 1789-1909
Z1223 .A113 (volume 1 only) | 2nd Floor
Commonly known as the 1909 Checklist, this volume is the basic source for SuDoc numbers prior to the 20th century. Although there is no subject indexing to documents through the 1909 Checklist, the volume is useful for browsing the publishing output of government agencies and for identifying various editions of the same document. An agency index appears at the end of the volume.
The Library owns a large collection of microformed documents . Although some microform collections are cataloged, the contents in many cases are not. This means that keyword or subject searches in Vikat may not uncover items that we have related to your topic. In some cases, you will have better luck finding a particular item by using the printed finding aids located on the shelves next to the microform cabinets. For example, the Library owns a Microfilmed series titled American Women's Diaries located in the microfilm cabinets at PS669 .A47 1984. On the shelves by the cabinets can also be found a printed guide to this collection, located at the call number PS669 .A47 1984.
Primary Source Collections in Other Libraries & Archives
Some primary sources, such as diaries or letters, are original manuscripts which exist in only one place in the world. Unless these have been microfilmed or digitized, you will have to visit the source to use these. Nearby institutions that contain primary source materials include:
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205
Multnomah County Public Library - Central Library
801 S.W. 10th Avenue
Portland, OR 97205
Northwest Digital Archives
Finding Aids of collections at libraries, museums, and historical centers in the Northwest can be searched through the Northwest Digital Archives database. Though a significant number of finding aids are included, they do not represent the entire holdings of the participating institutions.
Microfilmed or reprinted primary source materials at remote locations may be requested through Interlibrary Loan (although these requests may not always be filled). To locate possible additional sources, you can try WorldCat:
When searching in WorldCat for primary source materials, you can use the same headings you used while searching VIKAT. Another option would be to do a keyword search, but limit your search to Archival Materials.
National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC)
This source lists manuscript collections and their locations and is especially useful if you are trying to locate where someone's personal papers are held. The Library has a print copy covering 1959-1992 at Z6620.U5 N3 | 2nd Floor.
Manuscript collections which have been cataloged since 1986 appear in the online searchable NUCMC catalog. There are two parts, the OCLC and the RLG Union Catalog. WorldCat includes the OCLC records, so you may just want to use the RLG Union Catalog.
National Archives & Records Administration Archival Research Catalog
About 40% of the materials in the National Archives have been included in this catalog, although that amount continues to grow. You can limit your search to digital archival material by checking the box in the search screen, or broaden your search to locate more materials. Most microfilmed materials can be borrowed from the NARA. The search below also demonstrates how you can limit to the holdings of the local NARA branch in Seattle.
Other guides to finding archival collections include:
Columbia University: Archives and Manuscript Collections
Repositories of Primary Sources
Locating Primary Sources on the Web
This excellent guide to finding and using primary sources on the Web was designed by the librarians in the History Section of the American Library Association's Reference and User Services division. As well as linking you to key online primary resources, the site provides guidance on how to search for additional resources, judge the quality of those resources, and cite the sources in a bibliography.