Primary Sources

One of the great things about the Internet is its ability to transmit primary source documents right into our classrooms! Archives and museums are constantly digitizing photos, diaries, notes, manuscripts, and more. The sites below are just the tip of the iceberg but will give you a start as you begin to search for appropriate materials.

I've also added some resources that can assist you in using primary sources as part of your instruction, including some links to help you create and use Document Based Questions (DBQs).


Library of Congress Learning Page
This is one of the BEST places to start!

National Archives Digital Classroom
Tons of cool stuff!
History Matters "Many Pasts"
Handy search feature
Digital Vaults
The NARA has put together this very cool Flash experience! A great way for kids to rethink how documents can be organized with opportunities to create posters and movies
Making Sense of Evidence
Two sections providing hands-on tutorials for using
primary sources


Over 7,000 advertisements printed between 1911 and 1955
American RadioWorks: The President Calling
A great series of audio clips recorded during phone calls in the Oval Offices of John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon
America's Story
Designed for younger kids by the Library of Congress
Ancient History Sourcebook
Resources that help make sense of Mesopotamia,
Egypt, Greece, Rome and Hellenistic World
The Authentic History Center
Amazing text and audio files such as letters, diaries, political cartoons, music and speeches from the colonial period to present
American Rhetoric
Database of over 5000 audio, video, and text files of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates and interviews
Ancient History on the Web
Greek, Roman, Egyptian & Near Eastern web sites
Asian History on the Web
Extensive list of useful sites
The Avalon Project
World and US documents from the 18th to the 21st centuries
Chronicling America: Historical American Newspapers

Search and view newspaper pages from 1880-1922 & find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present
Digital History
A great source of digital documents and lesson plans
Documenting the American South
Texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature and culture
DoHistory Home
Uses A Midwife's Tale to teach the use of primary sources and oral history
EuroDocs: Primary Historical Documents for Western Europe
Selected goodies from Western Europe
Eyewitness to History
History through the eyes of those who lived it
Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
High-quality educational material
Original historical documents are combined with social networking
Historical Thinking Matters
Designed to teach students how to critically read US History primary sources
Historical Voices
A rich set of exhibits and educational curricula that fully incorporate sound files
HSI: Historical Scene Investigation
Designed for social studies teachers who need a strong pedagogical mechanism for bringing primary sources into their classroom
History & Politics Outloud
A searchable archive of politically significant audio materials
Internet History Sourcebooks Project
Historical texts covering American and world history
The Kansas History Gateway
A huge number of documents and primary sources in local, state and national history
The Labyrinth
Links to Medieval period resources
Latin American History on the Web
Useful list of sites for teachers and students
Learning Curve
Created by the British National Archives, some great hands-on lessons using primary sources
Letters of Note

An attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos
Links to World History Document Sources 
Helps make sense of the vast amount of source material

Making of America
A digital library of US primary sources from the antebellum period through reconstruction
Medieval History on the Web
Nice list of general and specific sites
Medieval Sourcebook
Tons of resources with a focus on Europe

Miller Center for Public Affairs
Focuses on American politics with special attention paid to the American Presidency. Some cool speeches!
National History Education Clearinghouse
Online location for accessing high-quality resources in K-12 U.S. history education
National Park Service / Links to the Past
Lots of cool stuff here - lesson plans, artifacts, teaching tools
New York Public Library: Digital Library
Images from categories including the Civil War, Politics, Education and Religion
Object of History
From the Smithsonian, historical objects, pics, lesson plans, activities and more
Online Documents
One hundred links to archives & documents
Our Documents
Created by the NARA, this site has digital forms of the 100 most important US documents and related lesson plans
Perseus Digital Library
Covers the history, literature and culture of the Greco-Roman world
Picturing Modern America
Read about, question and discuss the photographs
Popular Songs in American History
Tunes, lyrics, information and historical background of American music
Primary Access
Access to digital images and materials that enable them to construct compelling personal narratives
Primary Sources and Real World Data
Site with links to primary documents, real world data & teaching resources
Primary Source Learning
An incredibly rich resource for documents and teaching materials
Primarily History
Maintained by Trish McPherson, media specialist at Stonehill College. Nice blog with great Delicious links!
Rag Linen

An educational archive of rare and historic newspapers
Repositories of Primary Sources
A listing of over 5500 websites
Sub-Saharan African History on the Web 
Solid list of helpful sites

US Historical Documents
List of pre-colonial to the present sources
USA - Index to Source Material
Another good collection of historical documents
A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization
Documents over five different periods
Vintage Ad Browser

100,000+ vintage advertisements to explore

Welcome to Archiving America
A unique array of primary source material from 18th Century America
5000 hours of secret recordings made the presidents from FDR to Nixon
World Digital Library
Cool archive searchable by place and date

World History Sources
Wow! Sources, unpacking evidence, case studies, analyzing documents, teaching aids. This site is a must see
World War I Document Archive
Assembled by volunteers of the WW I Military History List
World War One propaganda posters
About 100 different posters (go here for a huge list of propaganda poster sites)

 Using Primary Sources

Read Like a Historian
Beyond The Bubble
Both from the Stanford History Education Group. A great place to start
NARA's version of online historical thinking assessment
Historical Thinking Matters
Some nice examples of what instruction and assessment can look like
HSI: Historical Scene Investigation
13 lessons focusing on historical thinking 
Kansas Department of Education
Assessment examples, rubrics, and documents
Library of Congress analysis worksheets
Using Primary Sources
Ideas and strategies from the Library of Congress
National Archives analysis worksheets
8 Tasty Graphic Organizers for analyzing primary sources

DBQ Materials
More resources for writing / scoring DBQs

Guides for Using Primary Sources with Students
Series of resources to help students understand primary documents
Historical Treasure Chests
A model for engaging students in an investigation of authentic materials from the past
Five Step Process for Creating a DBQ
New York State Department of Education

DBQs: A How To Guide
Advice for both teachers and students
Middle School DBQs
This framework is designed to be used by Social Studies teachers at grades 6-11 with samples

DBQ template based on NY (Word format)
Sample DBQ template (Word format)

Sample World History DBQ
A nice example of a HS level DBQ with three samples of student writing. Handy for practice scoring
Social Studies Resources
The Greece School District in NY posted this useful site with links to DBQs
Teaching with Documents
“Teaching with Documents” is designed to help teachers and students make sense of the vast amount of source material available over the Internet. It provides easy access to analytic tools, instructional strategies, and links to source material and sample assessments
Teaching with Primary Sources
Prentice Hall resource about the process of using primary documents
Using Primary Sources on the Web
This brief guide is designed to provide students and researchers with information to help them evaluate the quality of online primary materials
Four Keys to Making DBQs Work in Middle Schools
From the Teaching Channel

DBQ Strategies and Resources
Online presentation
Primary & Secondary Sources: A Comparison
Examine a historical event by looking at both a primary and a secondary source related to it