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Research Guides | Library | Amherst College

BLST-231/HIST-247 African American History: Slave Trade to Reconstruction - Course Guide

Digitized Archival Collections

Historical Newspapers and Periodicals


These collections are available on Microfilm at Frost Library. If you are new to microfilm, check out this video tutorial on using microfilm, microfiche, and the machines you use to read them.

Find primary sources in the library catalog

Scholars and publishers compile collections of primary sources that can be found in library catalogs, such as the Amherst Catalog, the Five Colleges Catalog, or World Cat. Examples include published manuscripts, diaries, or letters of an individual (In Lincoln's Hand: His Original Manuscripts), or sources related to a particular topic (The Nazi Concentration Camps, 1933-1939: A Documentary History).

Like every other item in the catalog, these collections are assigned standardized subject headings or subheadings, making them easier to find. To locate primary sources in a library catalog, it is best to use the "Advanced Search" feature, with keywords for your topic in the first search box, and the subject headings for the kind of source you are looking for in the second search box (make sure the two boxes are connected with the "and" dropdown, so you are searching for both concepts).


Primary sources subjects 1

You can search for a variety of primary sources by inserting "or" between each type of source.



Once you find an item that looks appropriate, you can identify the relevant subject headings to modify your search, or click on the link to see if there are other works with the same subjects. For example, having found a relevant book in the Amherst catalog using the above search terms, you would find the following subject headings:


Clicking on the first link takes you to a list of subject headings that you can click on to find more sources:


Common sub-headings for primary sources include:

  • Archival Resources
  • Archives
  • Correspondence [note: use this if you are looking for letters]
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Notebooks, sketchbooks
  • Personal narratives
  • Photographs
  • Pictorial works
  • Sources
  • Speeches

For a more exhaustive list, with examples, see MIT Libraries' page on primary source subject headings. You can copy and paste the following into a search box as "Subject Keywords" [the 'or' between terms allows the catalog to search for any of the terms, not all of them]:
"archival resources" or archives or correspondence or diaries or interviews or notebooks or sketchbooks or "personal narratives" or photographs or "pictorial works" or sources or speeches