Digital Primary Sources

Updated 2/24/20

Primary sources are original items or records that have survived from the past, such as clothing letters, photographs, and manuscripts…they are part of a direct personal experience of a time or event. Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience (from The Library of Congress).

Why Use Primary Sources?

Primary sources provide a window into the past and unfiltered access to the record of artistic, social, scientific and political thought and achievement during the specific period under study, produced by people who lived during that period. Bringing young people into close contact with these unique, often profoundly personal, documents and objects can give them a very real sense of what it was like to be alive during a long-past era.

  • Engage Students
  • Develop Critical Thinking Skills
  • Construct Knowledge

Where Can I Find Digital Primary Sources?

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American Memory Timeline  Nine Time Periods of United States History  1783-1968
America’s Story will “put the story back in history and show you some things that you’ve never heard or seen before.”
Chronicling America – Historic American Newspapers
LOC Guide to Finding Primary Sources  Introduction to working with primary sources.
LOC For Teachers   Find Library of Congress lesson plans and more that meet Common Core standards, state content standards, and the standards of national organizations.
LOC Classroom Materials
LOC Lesson Plans by Topic, Era,  A-Z
LOC Prints & Photographs  Online Catalog
Flickr – Illustrated Newspaper Supplements from LOC 


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Photo from Indianapolis Recorder CollectionIndiana Historical Society

Archiving Early America  Newspapers, Maps, Writings
America’s Story   Putting the Story Back in History – Engaging Students
CDE Elementary Primary Source Sets
Civil Rights Digital Library
Civil Rights Primary Sources
Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and Primary Source Sets,  free & searchable database of online collections from America’s libraries, museums, archives, and cultural heritage institutions.
DocsTeach  Online Tool for Teaching with Documents from the National Archives
Doing History – UNC  Doing History!
Emerging America  Search by Type, Subject, Time Period, and Grade Level.
Google Patents Search and read the full text of patents from around the world, 1790-present
National Archives
National Archives Constitutional Day
Newseum   Media Literacy Education
Our Documents  100 Milestone Documents of the United States
Presidential Libraries
Presidential Primary Source Project  Free Interactive Video Conferencing with Your Classroom
Primary Legal materials   Repository of Primary Legal Materials of United States
Short films of Noteworthy Events in history from Early America
Smithsonian Collections
TPS – at Metro State Colorado  Teaching with Primary Sources at Metro State and Library of Congress

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European Digital Repository
Historical Worldwide Newspapers LibGuide
ICON: International Coalition on Newspapers  ICON, the International Coalition on Newspapers, can help you find sites that provide access to digitized newspapers (current or historical) from countries around the world.
International Collection – Library of Congress 
Research Guides from UW on Asian History –  East Asia    South Asia    Southeast Asia
The Avalon Project   400 BC – 21st Century Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy
World Digital Library 


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1880’s Leadville, Colorado
(Photo from

CDE Elementary Primary Source Sets
Colorado Encyclopedia
Digital Colorado at Colorado Virtual Library (CVL)
History Colorado Museum Artifact Kits for School Use
History Colorado Online Exhibits and Digital Badges
12 Months of Colorado American Indian History
Plains to Peaks Collective (PPC) is the Colorado-Wyoming Service Hub of the Digital Public Library of America, DPLA.  Learn more about the PPC at PPC CVL Sites.
Rocky Mountain PBS Experience Colorado Documentaries historical documentary series dedicated to preserving & celebrating the people, events & places that have shaped Colorado.
UNC – DoingHistory, Keeping the Past


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Alabama Birmingham Iron Age, 1874-1901 from the Birmingham Public Library

Alaska Newspapers Index from the Alaska State Library

California Digital Newspaper Collection includes the Amador Ledger, 1852-1911; Imperial Valley Press, 1901-1911; Livermore Herald, 1877-1899; Los Angeles Herald, 1873-1921; Sacramento Daily Union, 1851-1899; San Francisco Call, 1890-1913; and many more California newspapers

Colorado’s Historic Newspaper Collection

Florida Digital Newspaper Library

Georgia  Digital Library of Georgia: Historic Newspapers

Hawaii  Index to the Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Bulletin, 1929-1969



Iowa Historical Newspapers: Digitized: A-Z Cities/Counties
A list of digitized historical Iowa newspapers by city or county

Historic Kentucky Newspapers Collection

Louisiana Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers Project (DLNP) digitized early newspaper issues from various Louisiana Parishes

Maine Snow Index to Brunswick Weekly Newspapers, 1853-December, 1960

Maryland State Archives Online Digitized Newspapers


Michigan  Digital Michigan Newspapers Database and Newspaper Portal includes links to free and fee-based online historical Michigan newspapers



Montana Montana Newspapers from the Montana Historical Society


New Jersey

New Mexico  New Mexico Historical Newspapers from the University of New Mexico Digital Repository

New York

North Carolina  North Carolina Newspapers from DigitalNC/the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center


Oklahoma  Gateway to Oklahoma History: Searchable Newspapers 1840s-1920s from the Oklahoma Historical Society



South Carolina  Historical Newspapers of South Carolina

South Dakota  Deadwood/Black Hills Newspapers Index, 1877-1900 indexes these Deadwood newspapers: Black Hills Daily Times, Black Hills Champion, and the Black Hills Daily Pioneer

Texas Digital Newspaper Program

Utah Digital Newspapers

Vermont Digital Newspaper Project


Washington (State)  Historical Newspapers in Washington Project (ongoing project) most entries are from the 1850s-1880s

Wisconsin  Wisconsin Local History & Biography Articles c.1860 – c.1940 has 16,000 articles

Wyoming Newspaper Project




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