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

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Unpublished documents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
Oral histories and traditions
Published documents are
created for wide audiences.
Sheet music
Examples of Published
Unpublished documents are
seldom meant to be read by the
public and can be difficult to find.
Letters and diaries
Financial ledgers
Meeting minutes
Architectural drawings
Land surveys
Census data
Family Bibles
Research files
Police & court records
Tax and voter records
Examples of Unpublished
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
Recordings include...
Oral histories
Popular lyrics
Famous political speeches
Broadcasts from radio or TV
Examples of Recorded
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
Examples of Oral Histories
and Traditions
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.
Robinson, James Harvey. “The Historical
Point of View.” Readings in European
History. Boston: Ginn, 1904.
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