How Do I Find - Primary Sources

Primary sources are first-hand documentation including letters, diaries, photographs, oral histories, and administrative records.

These items contain original information from the time period being researched and may be found in their original format or as a reproduction from a later date. Primary sources are the original materials that allow researchers to conduct critical analysis of a topic.

Primary Sources at UCR

Identifying and locating primary sources can be challenging. Primary sources are often in manuscript collections and archival records. However, this material may be located in a number of places including in the library, elsewhere on campus, or even online. There is no single tool that will find everything at UCR, but a good start is to reach out to these departments that hold major collections:

Primary Sources Online

We provide access to many online databases that contain primary sources.  You can find visual resources, maps, letters and diaries, and newspaper articles that have been digitized from repositories around the world.  Check out our primary source databases or contact a subject specialist for help finding primary sources in your area.  Also check out these resources:

Primary Sources at Other Repositories

You can search the websites of many repositories directly. See the Repositories of Primary Sources guide to repository websites from around the world.

You can also use one of the following tools to conduct your own search:

  • Online Archive of California - More than 20,000 finding aids that provide free public access to detailed descriptions of primary source collections maintained at more than 200 contributing institutions throughout California including all 10 UC Campuses
  • Calisphere - Digital collections from California institutions that includes over 400,000 digitized photographs, documents, letters, artwork, diaries, oral histories, films, advertisements, musical recordings, and more
  • ArchiveGrid - More than 4 million records that provide free public access to detailed descriptions of primary source collections maintained at more than 1000 contributing institutions throughout the World
  • WorldCat - Brief descriptions of primary source collections held in more than 10,000 academic, public, special, and national libraries around the world
  • Library of Congress Digital Collections - Over 250 digital collections containing hundreds of thousands digitized maps, photographs, diaries, newspapers, sound recordings, and film on the history of the United States
  • Digital Public Library of America - Millions of digital objects from America’s libraries, archives, and museums documenting our nation's cultural heritage