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Primary Resources for Humanities Research

Primary resources provide evidence to support key claims and arguments in research. This guide defines primary resources, provides evaluation criteria, and offers strategies for finding primary resources in large library catalogs and digital collections.


The Colby College Libraries subscribe to many large collections of digitized primary resources for use in student and faculty research.  Included are digitized newspapers from past and present, periodicals from previous centuries, early books, pamphlets, broadsides, visual art and images, government documents, transcribed lectures, speeches, streaming music and video, travel writings, 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, published interviews, correspondence, oral histories, diaries, exhibition catalogs, collected source readings, scrapbooks, facsimiles, original literary and creative works, video, music, etc. CBBcat is the best place to find these published materials. Colby Libraries Special Collections has a rich collection manuscripts and rare books.

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. Consult other subject guides for subject-specific resources not found on this guide. 

The web has numerous open access primary resource repositories that may relevant to your topic.  Please consult with a librarian to explore how  Colby's physical and digital collections and open access web primary resource materials can be used in the classroom, for assignments, and student scholarship.

Continue to use Margaret Ericson's Art Guide to find other articles, dissertations, and books whose footnotes and bibliographies you can mine for additional primary sources.

For a long list of digital primary source collection for social sciences and humanities research, see

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