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Research Guides | Library | Amherst College

Do Research Remotely

How do I find primary sources in library databases and online collections?

Most of the resources collected here allow you to search by keyword or browse in ways that reflect sources' original format. Be sure to check out the Primary Sources research guide for more context and tips. On this page you'll find:

  • Digitized collections of primary sources — These collections are usually organized around a common theme or topic
  • Government Documents — Collections of government documents
  • Historical Newspapers and Periodicals — Organized by geography, subject, or social identities of publishers and readers
  • Tips for finding primary sources on the Internet

How do I find primary sources on the Internet?

  1. Do a search in Google (or the search engine of your choice)

  2. Combine keywords that describe your topic with keywords to retrieve primary sources or digital collections from archives and museums

For example

Common primary source keywords include:

  • "primary sources"
  • sources
  • documents
  • texts
  • manuscripts
  • "digital collections"

You can also try keywords for kinds of primary sources:

  • "oral histories"
  • "personal narratives"
  • letters
  • correspondence
  • interviews
  • diaries

Remember to evaluate the sites you find -- even a quick check to see if a site is produced by an archives, museum, governmental agency, or educational institution can help you determine whether this is a legitimate, trustworthy source for information. The best sites for primary sources will provide you with the information you need to cite your sources. 

Other research guides

To see if a librarian has already identified digital primary sources related to your topic, do an Internet search for a term or phrase related to your research plus the phrase "research guide" or LibGuide.

Digitized Archival Collections

Amherst College Digital Collections

Collections from other institutions

Collections organized by era

Collections organized around slavery and abolition

Collections organized around social identities & social histories

Collections organized by geographic region

Collections organized around political histories and political activism

Historical Newspapers

These databases have collections of newspapers published generally pre-1990, often digitized from print or microfilm. They are searchable, but be aware that the results won't be as accurate as born-digital newspapers.

Historical Periodicals

Government Documents

Gateways to open-access primary source collections

 Use these to find freely-available collections of primary sources.