Primary Sources …valuable resources that you don’t want to overlook!

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Primary Sources
…valuable resources that
you don’t want to overlook!
What are primary sources?

Primary sources are the original items
or records that have survived from the
past. They are part of a direct personal
experience of a time or event. Letters,
manuscripts, photographs, articles of
clothing and sheet music are all examples
of primary sources.
What are secondary sources?

Secondary sources, usually written
after an event takes place, are created by
documenting someone else’s experience
to provide a perspective for a past event.
The sources we use most frequently are
often secondary sources -- encyclopedias,
textbooks, magazines, biographies, and
documentary movies.
Kinds of Primary Sources
Published documents
Unpublished documents
Visual documents
Recordings
Oral histories and traditions
Artifacts
Published documents are
created for wide audiences.
Books
Magazines
Newspapers
Government
documents
Reports
Advertisements
Maps
Pamphlets
Posters
Sheet music
Manuscripts
Ordinances
Examples of Published
Documents
Unpublished documents are
seldom meant to be read by the
public and can be difficult to find.
Letters and diaries
Journals
Wills
Deeds
Financial ledgers
Meeting minutes
Architectural drawings
Blueprints
Land surveys
Census data
Family Bibles
Research files
Speeches
Police & court records
Tax and voter records
Examples of Unpublished
Documents
Visual documents capture
moments in time.
They demonstrate the changes in cultures
and customs.
They present the point of view of the
creator -- a photographer, filmmaker,
painter, or sculptor.
Photographs, posters, film, video, fine art
paintings and sculptures are visual
documents .
Examples of Visual
Documents
Recordings include...
Oral histories
Interviews
Music
Popular lyrics
Famous political speeches
Broadcasts from radio or TV
Examples of Recorded
Documents
Oral Histories and Traditions
This is cultural or historical information
passed from generation to generation
through the spoken word. Life history
interviews may also include a variety of
songs and narratives as well as accounts
of ethnic traditions for planting, cooking,
marriage, death, celebrations, and
recreation.
Examples of Oral Histories
and Traditions
Artifacts
Artifacts are objects that have survived
from times past -- some for thousands of
years -- that supply a concrete link to our
past. Any items representing daily life or
significant events of a former era such as
weapons, tools, inventions, and clothing
are considered artifacts.
Examples of Artifacts
How reliable are
primary sources?
Every document, visual, recording, or
artifact has a creator and every creator
has a point of view. When using any
source, even the original, it is important
to remember this.
However, the more often something is
repeated, the less accurate and
trustworthy it becomes. Therefore going
directly to the primary source is preferred.
Why use primary sources?
Most of what happens in the past is either
never documented or destroyed. What
does remain gives us valuable clues about
life before our time.
Conscientious researchers examine
primary resources themselves as well as
taking advantage of the explanations,
suggestions and criticisms made by
scholars in secondary sources.
Resource for this Power Point
“The Learning Page.” American Memory:
Historical Collections for the National
Digital Library. 9-26-02. The Library
of Congress. 10-2502. http://memory.
loc.gov/ammem/nd/ped/index/html.
Robinson, James Harvey. “The Historical
Point of View.” Readings in European
History. Boston: Ginn, 1904.
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