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Primary Resources : A Guide to Digitized and Print Collections: Welcome

An introduction to primary resources at Colby and a listing of electronic packages of historical digitized content available to current Colby faculty, staff, and students.

Major Collections of Primary Sources

Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary Sources - Documents & artifacts created at or near the time of an event. The testimonies, memories and recollections of people who experienced or witnessed the event. Examples include:

  • Photos
  • Posters and other publicity materials
  • Exhibition catalogs
  • Newspaper or magazine articles/reviews of the time
  • Personal Narratives (e.g. diaries or journals)
  • Interviews
  • Witness/Participant accounts
  • Official records (e.g. contracts, legislation, court decisions)

Secondary Sources - Writings after the fact by people who did not experience the event. This includes the scholarly analysis found in journal articles.

The Colby College Libraries offer numerous large collections of digitized primary source content for the use in faculty, staff, and student research.  Included are digitized newspaper content, periodicals from previous centuries, early books, pamphlets, broadsides, images, magazines, government documents, transcribed speeches, sermons, travelogues, etc., relating to all parts of the world and time periods from the 15th century forward.

The library's physical collections also contain primary sources, in the form of autobiographies, interviews, collections of letters, diaries, scrapbooks, facsimiles, etc. 

The majority of these materials span and relate to many interdisciplinary topics; this guide is an attempt to gather the content and provide a rudimentary categorization by time period. Many of the resources relating to specific subject matter may also be included in specific subject guides

As new material is acquired, the guide will be updated.

Please note this includes mainly subscribed, or purchased content.  The Libraries offer many forms of primary materials, many of which are the actual artifacts.  Please consult with a librarian to explore how primary materials can be used in the classroom, for assignments, and student scholarship.

Wordle: Primary Resources

Searching for Primary Sources on the Web

Do a smart Google search!

Besides the wealth of digitized primary sources in Colby databases, you can find wonderful archival material online if you search carefully.

1. Use key archival and primary source terms that will get rid of extraneous results

  • "digital collections"
  • "digital library"
  • "oral histories" or "oral history"
  • museum OR archiv*
  • manuscripts
  • papers - with a person's name in quotes (e.g. "Edith Wharton" papers
  • memoir*
  • correspondence

2. Advanced Search

  • For a more precise search, from the Google results, click on: Settings > Advanced Search 
  • You can then narrow your search by entering .edu or .gov or .org in the Site or Domain box
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