University Archives & Special Collections

Locating Primary Sources for Research Papers

These sources are for primarily physical archive collections, although some sites may provide online access to digital collections. Researchers need to understand using catalogs, finding aids, and digital materials in order to access many materials. Some resources may require contacting the library maintaining the materials.

Resources for Finding Archive Collections

  • ArchiveGrid: contains primary source collection descriptions from over 1000 archival institutions and are searchable by location
  • Bibliographies or Footnotes: use other items' bibliographies or footnotes to find repositories and collections as well as other secondary materials
  • Digital Public Library of America (DPLA): digital collections from the United States
  • Europeana: digital collections from Europe
  • Faculty: reach out to a faculty member or subject expert and ask for recommended sites and archives
  • Archive Websites: many archives' websites have finding aids, digital materials, and online exhibits
  • Archive Finder: users must register for a free trial to access the information from the Directory of Archives and Manuscripts Repositories in the United States (DAMRUS), The National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United States (NIDS), and the National Union Catalogue of Archives and Manuscripts (NUCMC)
  • Internet Archive: a collection of free books, movies, websites, music, etc. from libraries worldwide and websites of these libraries
  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): maintains access to most government records. One exception is the National Park Service, which maintains its own records.  They also have a searchable catalog of archival materials with finding aids and digital collections.
  • NARA Access to Archival Databases (AAD): historic databases from over 30 government agencies with over 85 million electronic records
  • National Park Service NPGallery: database of digital collections by the National Park Service
  • National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC): how to search WorldCat for worldwide materials
  • OCLC SearchFast Aids: find materials in WorldCat related to specific subjects
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives: searchable finding aids and digital collections related to the history of the Smithsonian Institution
  • Sourcebooks: collections of topic-specific documents in a comprehensive text serving as an introduction to the topic

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