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14 Free Resources for Primary Source Documents

Primary sources are resources that were first-hand created in a given period of time and never undergone any kind of editing or distortion. These sources are multimodal and they come in different forms. They can be artifacts, documents, pictures, recordings, essays, photographs, maps...etc. Now with the globalization of knowledge and the pervasive use of digital media, primary sources become accessible to everybody with an internet connection. However, the search for these materials is akin to a scavenger hunt and hence the importance of having a handy list such as the one below to keep for rainy days.

I have been scouring the web for several hours and finally come up with this selection. I have also come across several other lists of primary sources curated by other educators but the one that stood out to me the most is Edutopia's list.

Whether you teach social studies, history, literature, Geography or any other content area where there is a need for original and primary source documents, the list below will definitely be a good starting point for searching and assembling primary sources.

1- Library of Congress


The Library of Congress offers classroom materials and professional development to help teachers effectively use primary sources from the Library's vast digital collections in their teaching. Find Library of Congress lesson plans and more that meet Common Core standards, state content standards, and the standards of national organizations.
2- Primary Source Nexus


Funded by a grant from the Library of Congress PSN provides no-cost teacher professional development to help K-12 educators provide high-quality classroom instruction using the millions of digitized primary sources available from www.loc.gov.
3- America in Class

This websites offers collections of primary resources compatible with the Common Core State Standards — historical documents, literary texts, and works of art — thematically organized with notes and discussion questions.

4- Chronicling America


Search America's historic newspaper pages from 1836-1922 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress
5- Docs Teach

Docs Teach provides thousands of primary source documents that span the course of American history. to bring the past to life as classroom teaching tools from the billions preserved at the National Archives. Use the search field to find written documents, images, maps, charts, graphs, audio and video in our ever-expanding collection that spans the course of American history.

6- Digital Archive Wilson Centre


The Digital Archive contains once-secret documents from governments all across the globe, uncovering new sources and providing fresh insights into the history of international relations and diplomacy
7- The Avalon Project

Avalon Project in Yale University provides a wide collection of primary source documents and materials on different areas including law, history, and diplomacy

8- Persus Digital Library


Persus Digital Library is another wonderful resource for primary source documents. Under the tab "collections and text" you can browse from thousands of resources all archived in digital format.

9- Life Photo Archive

Life Photo Archive is a good platform to search for  millions of photographs  stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google. Add "source:life" to any Google image search and search only the LIFE photo archive. For example: computer source:life

10- Milestone Documents


Milestone Documents provides a growing collection of primary sources for teachers.You’ll find material from nearly every time period and location, plus pedagogical support designed by teachers for teachers.
11- Internet History Sourcebook Project

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use.
12- Euro Docs

For our colleagues teaching in Europe, this website feature sources on European history. It offers selected transcripts, facsimiles and translations on different historical periods .

13- History Matters


Designed for high school and college teachers and students, History Matters serves as a gateway to web resources and offers other useful materials for teaching U.S. history
14- World Digital Library


The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.

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