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Primary Sources: Digital Archives, Collections, Libraries, and Repositories - Alex Oberle   Tags: digital archives, geography, google books, hathi trust, history, open access, primary sources, secondary education. digital collections  

This guide pulls together free (open access) resources from various digital libraries, institutional repositories, and other online initiatives. Search strategies and techniques are given for a number of the major resources.
Last Updated: Jan 3, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Primary Source Material Favorites

  • 250+ Killer Digital Libraries and Archives
    "Hundreds of libraries and archives exist online, from university-supported sites to accredited online schools to individual efforts. Each one has something to offer to researchers, students, and teachers. This list contains over 250 libraries and archives that focus mainly on localized, regional, and U.S. history, but it also includes larger collections, eText and eBook repositories, and a short list of directories to help you continue your research efforts." --- Open Education Database
  • American Memory Project
    "American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning." --- Library of Congress
  • Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates
    Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention - includes: Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 - Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789 -Elliot's Debates, 1787-1788 - Farrand's Records, 1787

    Journals of Congress - includes House Journal - Senate Journal - Senate Executive Journal - Maclay's Journal

    Debates of Congress - includes Annals of Congress, 1789-1824 - Register of Debates, 1824-1837 - Congressional Globe, 1833-1873 - Congressional Record, 1873-1875

    Statutes and Documents - includes Bills and Resolutions - Statutes at Large - American State Papers - U.S. Serial Set
  • DPLA: Digital Public Library of America
    "The Digital Public Library of America brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. DPLA aims to expand this crucial realm of openly available materials, and make those riches more easily discovered and more widely usable and used ..." --- DPLA
  • Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920
    "The Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850 - 1920 (EAA) presents over 9,000 images, with database information, relating to the early history of advertising in the United States. The materials, drawn from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University, provide a significant and informative perspective on the early evolution of this most ubiquitous feature of modern American business and culture." --- Duke University Libraries
  • Google Books Advanced Book Search
    Google Books is one of the truly remarkable free portals to historical of literature of books (and to a lesser degree magazines). Google has now digitized over 15 million books. Though only those books published prior to the copyright boundary of 1923 can be viewed in their entirety - Google Books is also able to provide partial views of many books published after 1923. Click on the Google Books tab above for more details on using the Advanced Search.
  • HathiTrust
    HathiTrust provides access to books published before 1923. Unlike Google Books, HathiTrust provides online access to both historic and current U.S. Government Documents. For more details about the Advanced Search click on the HathiTrust tab above.
  • Internet Archive - ebooks and Texts
    Large historic book and pamphlet portal. Contains over six million works and features many special collections such as Project Gutenberg, the Million Books Project, the Children's Library, American Libraries, Canadian Libraries, and the Community Books Collection. Use the Advanced Search feature to focus your searches.
  • OAIster
    OAIster is an online catalog for locating more than 30 million online records and hundreds of thousands of online books.
  • Primary Sources: 17th & 18th Century America (University of Washington)
    A portal to roughly three dozen digital archives focusing on aspects of 17th & 18th century American history.
  • Primary Sources: 19th Century America (University of Washington)
    A portal to nearly one hundred digital archives focusing on 19th century American History.
  • Primary Sources: 20th Century America (University of Washington)
    A portal to over one hundred different digital archives providing primary source materials from 20th century America.
  • State Digital Resources: Memory Projects, Online Encyclopedias, Historical & Cultural Materials Collections
    Provides access to over 100 different digital iniitiatives and archives and online libraries.

Making of America (Cornell University)


  • Making of America (Cornell University)
    This online collection provides access to over 250 books and over two dozen magazines published during the 19th century.

    Magazines include:

    The American Missionary (1878 - 1901)
    The American Whig Review (1845 - 1852)
    The Atlantic Monthly (1857 - 1901)
    The Bay State Monthly (1884 - 1886)
    The Century (1881 - 1899)
    The Continental Monthly (1862 - 1864)
    The Galaxy (1866 - 1878)
    Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1850 - 1899)
    The International Monthly Magazine (1850 - 1852)
    The Living Age (1844 - 1900)
    Manufacturer and Builder (1869 - 1894)
    The New England Magazine (1886 - 1900)
    The New-England Magazine (1831 - 1835)
    New Englander (1843 - 1892)
    The North American Review (1815 - 1900)
    The Old Guard (1863 - 1867)
    Putnam's Monthly (1853 - 1870)
    Scientific American (1846 - 1869)
    Scribner's Magazine (1887 - 1896)
    Scribner's Monthly (1870 - 1881)
    The United States Democratic Republican (1837 - 1859)

Making of America (University of Michigan)


  • Making of America (University of Michigan)
    This online collection provides access to over 8,000 books and over a dozen magazines from the 19th century. These magazines include:

    American Jewess 1895-1899 (hosted on behalf of the Jewish Women's Archive)
    Appleton's 1869-1881 (2 series)
    Catholic World 1865-1901
    DeBow's 1846-1869 + 1952 index (3 series)
    Garden and Forest 1888-1897
    Journal of the United States Association of Charcoal Iron Workers 1880-1891
    Ladies Repository 1841-1876 (3 series)
    The Old Guard 1864
    Overland Monthly 1868-1900 (2 series)
    Princeton Review 1831-1882 (3 series)
    Southern Literary Messenger 1835-1864 + 1936 Contributor index
    Southern Quarterly Review 1842-1857 (3 series)
    Vanity Fair 1860-1862

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