Skip to content

24 primary source archives you might have missed

Sure. We’ve all been to the Library of Congress digital archives. We all use the super handy National Archives’ Teaching With Documents section that shares lesson plans explaining historical events through primary documents.

And who doesn’t already spend hours at the Smithsonian Learning Lab and their History Explorer? Google’s Art and Culture is another rabbit hole waiting to happen. Of course, we all love DocsTeach.

But there are so many other places to find online primary sources. So. So. Many.

So many that it’s sometimes easier to just stick to the old reliables. So today you get 24 digital primary sources archives that tell the stories of people and groups that we sometimes miss when we stick to the old reliables.

Because the stories our kids need to hear should include more than just the dead white guys we grew up with. Nothing wrong with old white guys (you’ll find some below and I happen to know a couple of really nice old white guys) but don’t be afraid to grow your list to include the experiences of all sorts of people who make up the American narrative.

Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade is one of the latest digital archives to come online. Enslaved draws connections between existing datasets to piece together fragmentary narratives. These narratives allow you to explore or reconstruct the lives of individuals who were enslaved, owned slaves, or participated in the historical trade.

Digital Public Library of America and World Digital Library Massive list of primary sources searchable by keyword and visual map. Be sure to not miss the Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection.

Archiving Early America presents a wide array of primary source material on 18th century America, such as newspapers, maps, writings and portraits. It also includes Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and an 1807 biography of George Washington.

Ohio State University’s eHistory has a massive collection of famous documents, letters collections and online books. The highlight of the collection is the Official Records of the Civil War, made up of material from the military departments of the Union and Confederacy.

The University of Virginia’s “The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War” chronicles two counties, Augusta County, Va., and Franklin County, Penn., contrasting their experiences from John Brown’s Raid to the end of Reconstruction.

The National Parks Service’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System is a database that makes it easy to find personal records Civil War soldiers, sailors, prisoners and regiments.

The University of North Carolina’s “North American Slave Narratives” is a collection of slave biographies and autobiographies published as books or pamphlets.

The Library of Congress’ “Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories” features audio of 20th century interviews of 23 former slaves.

The National Archives Bureau of Indian Affairs just published a Record Group with over 18,000 photographs searchable by tribal nation, topic, and location.

HarpWeek examines presidential elections, the Civil War, Reconstruction and other events of 19th century America through the articles and cartoons of Harper’s Weekly.

The Library of Congress’ Chronicling America displays images of late 19th and early 20th century American newspaper pages.

South Asian American Digital Archive documenting, preserving, and sharing stories of South Asian Americans.

Clio Visualizing History is a nonprofit education organization dedicated to creating innovative online history exhibits designed to engage students and assist educators. Make sure to explore the Ongoing Feminist Revolution exhibit.

Interference Archive encourages the exploration of the relationship between cultural production and social movements and so includes many kinds of objects that are created as part of social movements by the participants themselves: posters, flyers, publications, zines, books, T-shirts and buttons, moving images, audio recordings, subject files, and other materials.

Archives of Lesbian Oral Testimony contains oral history audio and video recordings, radio and television programs, and associated materials.

The Digital Transgender Archive is an international collaboration among more than sixty colleges, universities, nonprofit organizations, public libraries, and private collections designed to increase the accessibility of transgender history.

Daryl Cagle’s Teachers’ Guide for the Professional Cartoonists Index offers lesson plans for using modern editorial cartoons in the classroom.

The National Security Archive is an independent institute located at The George Washington University that presents documents to the public after they have been declassified by the government.

The Oyez Project at Northwestern University allows you to listen to the Supreme Court justices as they deliberate cases, providing a complete source of all audio recorded since the installation of a recording system in the Court in 1955.

The Library of Congress’ A Century of Lawmaking provides the records of the Continental Congress, Constitutional Convention and first 43 sessions of Congress (1789-1873).

The Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement features testimony of members of Civil Rights organizations such as CORE, NAACP, SCLC and SNCC, who submit stories about their experiences or write commentary on the movement and current events.

American Rhetoric is dedicated to archiving American speeches, lectures, sermons, interviews and “other important media events.” Its “Online Speech Bank” contains full text, audio and video for more than 5,000 speeches.

Historical Voices is a fully searchable online database of spoken word collections spanning the 20th century.

EyeWitness to History features first-person accounts of prominent events in U.S. and world history, along with a simple explanation of the event’s importance.

Berkley Library A-Z
If you’re still hanging around, you’re clearly a bit of a history nerd. Your reward? Access to three hundred and fifty two digital archives, all in alpha order. You’re welcome.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: