Find primary sources

An instructor wearing white gloves shows primary source material to students

Primary sources are original documents created at the time of an event, such as a newspaper account, photographs, or videos. Primary sources also include diaries, memoirs, interviews, and other records that document a past event.

Special Collections maintains collections of rare books and unique archival materials that make possible in-depth research on selected topics. You can use Special Collections to locate rare books, manuscript collections, photographs, and other materials in a wide variety of subject areas.

Search our collection

Use our advanced catalog search to find different types of primary sources, including those housed in Special Collections. If we don't own something, request interlibrary loan.

  1. In the first search box, type your major search topic.
  2. On the second line, change Any Field to Subject.
  3. Enter the type of resource you are looking for on the Subject line. For example:
    • Sources
    • Interviews
    • Personal narratives
    • Statistics
    • Diaries
    • Correspondence
    • Biography
    • Archives
  4. You can search more than one of these by putting OR between words.

Digitized historical texts

19th Century in Print
Search collections of over 1,500 digitized books and 23 periodicals from 1815 to 1901 in all subject areas.

American Periodicals
Find articles from special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines, and many other historically-significant periodicals from 1740 to 1900.

America's Historical Imprints
Find books, pamphlets, and broadsides covering every aspect of American life from 1639 to 1922.

Archive Explorer
Find primary source materials from digital collections on American Indians, the American West, China, the Middle East, gender studies, Perdita Manuscripts (early modern women writers), and the Virginia Company.

Archives Unbound
Find historical documents, including women's issues, health policy, film studies, the American Indian Movement, Mexican history, Afghanistan and the United States, records of the Persian Gulf War, and the U.S. Middle East Peace Policy.

Congressional
Find Congressional reports, bills, hearings, committee prints, serial set maps, and other documents from 1789 to the present.

Early English Books Online
Find digital page images of virtually every work printed in English from 1473 to 1700, including works from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, British North America, and elsewhere.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online
Find full-text English-language and foreign-language titles covering multiple disciplines printed in Great Britain from 1701 to 1800.

Nineteenth-Century Collections Online
Find references to periodicals, newspapers, books, patents, image archives, and government documents covering all subjects of interest published in the United States and Britain in the 19th century.

WorldCat
Search for books, articles, audio, video, and other digital materials from the collections of the UA Libraries and thousands more libraries around the world.

Other types of primary sources

See our guides to finding other types of sources:

Get help

Use these tutorials to learn more about how to find and use primary sources.

Using Primary Sources on the Web
Learn how to identify, find, and evaluate primary sources from the American Library Association.

Using Primary and Secondary Sources: A Practice Tutorial
Learn the differences between primary and secondary sources.