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Primary Sources: What Are Primary Sources?

This guide provides an overview of Primary Source material, information for evaluating sources, and resources for finding sources.

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Identifying Primary Sources

Primary sources are original documents, objects, images, videos, or audio created at the time of the historical period you are studying or researching. They have been created by someone with firsthand experience of an event. In other words, they are not someone's interpretation of something that has occurred in the past or of someone else's account of an event or historic period.

Some examples of primary sources are:

Manuscripts

Diaries

Letters

Original documents

Government publications

Published books or newspapers from the time under study

Photographs

Recordings

Speeches

Scrapbooks

Works of Art

Music

As you can see, primary sources can be any number of objects or artifacts. The key thing to remember is that a primary source is a firsthand account or is something created by someone who was there or who witnessed an event firsthand.

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