What is a primary source?
A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include:
  • ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records
  • CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art
  • RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings

Examples of primary sources include:
  • Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII
  • The Constitution of Canada - Canadian History
  • A journal article reporting NEW research or findings
  • Weavings and pottery - Native American history
  • Plato's Republic - Women in Ancient Greece

What is a secondary source?
A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Some types of seconday sources include:
  • PUBLICATIONS: Textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, encyclopedias

Examples of secondary sources include:
  • A journal/magazine article which interprets or reviews previous findings
  • A history textbook
  • A book about the effects of WWI
Videos to help define primary and secondary sources
Apollo 11

Where can I find primary and secondary sources?

1. http://www.eduplace.com/ss/hmss/primary.html Primary Sources on the Web
We've searched the Web to find primary source documents, maps, images, and more that you can use in your classroom. The sites are sorted into two categories: sites relating to United States History and sites relating to world history.

2. www.ourdocuments.gov Our Documents
To help us think, talk and teach about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in our democracy, we invite you to explore 100 milestone documents of American history. These documents reflect our diversity and our unity, our past and our future, and mostly our commitment as a nation to continue to strive to "form a more perfect union."

3. www.loc.gov The Library of Congress
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.
Check out: http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/

4. www.eyewitnesstohistory.com Eye Witness to History
As the name of the website tells you, the focus on this site is to give you the perspective of the people who actually witnessed and were part of major historical events. The site succeeds in doing this not by providing collections of sources, but mostly by providing a type of narrative description and using primary sources such as interviews, letters, and speeches within the description. This site is very user friendly and provides an organized format to help students conduct research. This also includes some resources for world history.

5. www.gilderlehrman.org The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
This website is provided by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The collections they offer online are limited, there are only about 12 total. However, each collection is filled with quality documents including letters, speeches, proclamations etc. A great benefit of this website is the audio and video options that are available. There are audio recordings of many of the documents and there are short video segments presented by Gilder Lehrman experts explaining some of their online collections.

6. www.americanrhetoric.com American Rhetoric
This website is one giant collection of speeches. The amount and variety of speeches available through this site is amazing. They have everything from inaugural addresses to Oscar acceptance speeches. They have a search option, they also have all the speeches listed in alphabetical order by speaker, and they have some speeches grouped by topic.They also have a list of what they think are the 100 greatest speeches. This website offers some great resources, rough drafts, final drafts, edit notes, and audio and video when available.

7. www.wisconsinhistory.org Wisconsin Historical Society
Students can gain access to information specific to Wisconsin with this website, run by the Wisconsin Historical Society. This site offers quite a few collections including maps, genealogical documents, photographs, and image galleries. A lot of the collections are mostly images and photographs of their museum displays but these can still supply students with a lot of great information especially if they are unable to visit any of the Historical Society’s museums. The best feature this website offers is thousands of historical Wisconsin newspaper articles which students can read online or print.

8. www.historybuff.com History Buff
Historybuff provides primarily newspaper archives from 1730 to present which students can zoom in on and read online. This site also provides contemporary views of specific historical events from the people of the time. One of these collections include multiple student reactions to the Oklahoma City bombing. Also included on this site is information on many other topics, while most of them don’t contain primary sources they are still filled with valuable information.

9. www.earlyamerica.com Archiving Early America
This site focuses on America in 1700’s. Their collections are broken down by topics including maps, the Boston Massacre, and milestone events. Within these collections they often offer a look at the original document and a transcript. They also provide background information about the person, event, or topic and then access to the related primary source. Some of the collections only offer helpful information about the person or topic using quotes from primary sources in the text.

10. http://www.gpoaccess.gov/coredocs.html GPO Access
This government run website is made up of documents related to American Government. Their mission is to provide everyone access to the “core documents of U.S. Democracy.” The documents are grouped into eight main collections. Some of these collections include Congressional, Presidential, and Judicial documents. Since this is a government run website a lot of the collections link visitors to www.loc.gov or www.ourdocuments.gov which have already been mentioned, but this website is helpful to narrow down a students research on certain topics.

11. http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/about.cfm National Museum of American History This site is run by the Smithsonian and the National Museum of American History. It offers online versions of the museum collections. While this site mostly offers photos and brief descriptions of their displays it is still filled with valuable images and information for students to have. The variety of collections they offer is amazing. They have everything from a page of a Koran made in 1207 to the first Game Boy released in 1989.

12. http://www.law.ou.edu/hist/ The University of Oklahoma College of Law
This is a site managed by the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Unlike other site this one only offers its U.S. Historical Documents in chronological order which is a pretty straightforwards and refreshing way to organize them. The one downside to this site is that it doesn’t offer images of the original documents, just a transcript.

13. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/ Digital History
This website has multiple features and more resources than just primary documents. The two features that really stand out are the interactive map and the historic songs. The interactive map allows students to choose a year to view the map through, then depending on the year multiple points of interest pop up. If students click on these points it will take them to the background information and primary sources related to these points. The other great feature are the audio recordings of historic songs available on the website. It also includes basic information about each of the songs.

14. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/ National Archives
This website is part of the U.S. National Archives. It offers many online exhibits including the 1918 Influenza Epidemic and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. They offer views of the original documents but not transcripts, which is unfortunate because sometimes the originals can be hard to read. However, this site does offer the option to order copies of the documents which can be a helpful option.

15. http://www.authentichistory.com/ The Authentic History Center
This site was created and is run by a High School Social Studies teacher. The sites main focus is on primary sources from American pop culture. The site allows visitors to first browse by time periods and then choose topics within the time period chosen. Most collections include background information along with the primary sources. The most beneficial thing about this website is that it really allows users to get a taste of what life was like for Americans throughout history. The material is interesting and can help lure in a reluctant student.

16.http://www.harpweek.com/ Harpweek:Explore History
This website give students access to all different political cartoons throughout history. It has a few collections. The best of these collections is on Presidential Elections. Students can view election by year and each election contains many cartoons which were published at the time, and overview of the election and biographies on key players in the election. Under the “cartoon of the day” heading you can look up cartoons by date or theme. Each cartoon contains the image, basic bibliographic information, an explanation of the cartoon and an overview of events happening at the time.

17. http://sheg.stanford.edu/ Stanford History Education Group
Curriculum - The Reading Like a Historian curriculum engages students in historical inquiry.
Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features sets of
primary documents modified for groups of students with diverse reading skills
and abilities.

Projects - The projects range from the newest ways to use digital technologies in history
instruction to how students collaborating across national borders formulate
broader interpretations of the world