Digitized and Online Primary Source Collections

Some sites with significant primary source materials

Current and historical news sources

News footage/reels

News Images


A portal to image collections from across the globe, including documentary  photographs.  Try  GDR, for example, or  west germany or postwar Germany (or something else).  Like HOLLIS and like other databases, ARTSTOR has a rich set of filtering options to narrow and refine results.

Declassified Documents 

DNSA (Digital National Security Archive)

Declassified government documents covering U.S. policy toward critical world events – including their military, intelligence, diplomatic and human rights dimensions – from 1945 to the present. Each collection is assembled by foreign policy experts and features chronologies, glossaries, bibliographies, and scholarly overviews.

U.S. Declassified Documents Online

This database brings together the most sensitive documents from all the presidential libraries and numerous executive agencies in a single, easily searchable database, including: intelligence studies, policy papers, diplomatic correspondence, cabinet meeting minutes, briefing materials, and domestic surveillance and military reports.

CIA Research Reports, Europe, 1946-1976 (ProQuest History Vault

A rich resource for historians interested in how the United States navigated the changing attitudes and interests of Europe during the Cold War. With documents on all of the major European players, including East and West Germany, this collection provides excellent insight into the motivations, goals, concerns, and strategies employed by the CIA, and the U.S. government more generally. Covering the period from 1946 to 1976, the collection is organized both geographically and chronologically. In addition to reports on specific events, political maneuverings, and important people, the collection includes general reports on the strategic importance of each country both militarily and economically.

Office of Strategic Services (OSS)-State Department Intelligence and Research Reports, Part 04: Germany and Its Occupied Territories During World War II (Proquest History Vault)

Office of Strategic Services (OSS)-State Department Intelligence and Research Reports, Part 05: Postwar Europe, 1945-1949

Office of Strategic Services (OSS)-State Department Intelligence and Research Reports, Part 10: Europe, Supplement, 1950-1961

These three collections focus  Europe, from 1941 through 1961. Key topics include the German war effort, occupation and division of Germany, reconstruction of Europe under the Marshall Plan, de Gaulle and the Fifth Republic, formation of the Common Market, and Soviet control of Eastern Europe. 

East Germany from Stalinization to the New Economic Policy, 1950-1963

Provides an in-depth look into the creation of the East German state, living conditions, and its people. Documents included in this collection are predominantly instructions to and despatches from U.S. diplomatic, and consular personnel regarding political, military, economic, social, industrial, and other internal conditions and events in East Germany.

Post-war Europe: Refugees, Exile and Resettlement, 1945-1950

A collection of primary sources for the study and understanding of the challenges facing the European peoples in the aftermath of World War II." Topics covered include the administration of refugee camps across Europe in Germany and documents related to the British Military Government in Germany.

Themed Digital Collections

Primary Sources in HOLLIS

Primary sources abound in Harvard libraries--even those, like Widener or Lamont, that are neither "special collections" nor part of a dedicated information archive.

How can you search efficiently for them? Here are strategies to use in the catalog portion of our HOLLIS discovery system.


  • Use dates strategically. The HOLLIS catalog is massive -- and old in the best sense. Publications produced during the era or time period you're studying may become visible that way. With smallish results, you can resort by date ascending to make the oldest items visible first.
  • Use the Form/Genre limit to display materials by type. "Primary sources" will be identified with real granularity; they exist as everything from photographs to correspondence to diaries to clipping files and scrapbooks (for instance). 

NB: this filter has been applied inconsistently by catalogers, so use it judiciously as a marker of what's available to you.


  • Add a century marker to a keyword search (18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, for example). 
  • Try adding the keyword sources to a keyword string.  This trick will sometimes help you pull up primary materials that have been collected and republished in book form or that have been reformatted (as microfilm or microfiche or in digital form). 
  • Some other words to try are  anthologycollected, readerdocumentarydocuments