Gathering Primary Sources: Personal Papers, Organizational Papers, Writing and Correspondences

What is a primary source?  Material evidence that is free from analysis.  These are first-hand accounts of a topic, from people who had a direct connection with the event. 

Examples of primary sources include: Diaries, Personal Papers, Writing and Correspondences, Photographs, Data, Speeches, Newspapers and Magazines, Government Documents, Organizational Papers, Graphics and Illustrations, Posters and Pamphlets

Primary Sources often reside in archives, rather than libraries. 

  • Location and Hours: 
  • Hollis for Archival Discovery
  • Guide for Finding Primary Sources for History

University Archives

At Harvard’s repository of university and personal archives, find centuries of discoveries, pursuits, and the soul of Harvard, on campus and worldwide.

  • University records 1636 to now
  • Faculty papers
  • Student diaries and posters
  • Photos, films, and web archive

Houghton Library

Home to Harvard’s rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more: a destination for students, scholars, and the public.

  • Teach with primary sources
  • Research rare books
  • Explore free exhibits
  • Attend free events

Schlesinger Library

The Schlesinger Library illuminates the lives of American women past and present through its collections, research support, public programming, and exhibitions, all while advancing Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s commitment to women, gender, and society.

Fine Arts Library Photography Collection

The Fine Arts Library's print and photograph collections document works of art, architecture, and material culture from the ancient world to the present day.