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HIST 3020: Historical Methods: Primary Sources

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are records that provide first-hand testimony or evidence of an event, action, topic, or time period. Primary sources are usually created by individuals who directly experience an event or topic, and record their experience through photographs, videos, memoirs, correspondence, oral histories, or autobiographies.

Common Examples of PRIMARY Sources:

Letters, diaries, memoirs, speeches, interviews, photographs, notes, subject files, oral histories, autobiographies, travelogues, pamphlets, newspapers, newsletters, brochures, government documents including hearings, reports and statistical data, military service records, manuscripts, archival materials, plant specimens, artifacts, architectural plans, artistic works, works of fiction, music scores, and sound recordings.

Salix Tweedy, Herbarium specimen data provided by the Rocky Mountain Herbarium, University of Wyomng (Accessed through RM Herbarium web site,, 2013-10-05)



Newspapers can be an excellent source of primary source information. At UW Libraries we subscribe to a large number of newspaper databases. You can view all our newspapers here


Below you will find a select of broad primary source collections, to view all History databases follow this link

Where to Find Primary Sources

How to Use a Finding Aid

National Archives

Wyoming State Archives

Library of Congress