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SYRCE 2017/2018

Find resources - from background material to primary sources - for research and scholarship related to the 1930s.

Primary source research

Primary sources are records created or published during the time period under study (in this case, the 1930s). Materials may be available in print, in microform, or - if they have been digitized - online.

Some examples of primary sources include but are not limited to:

  • letters
  • diaries or journals
  • photographs
  • films
  • newspapers and magazines
  • interviews or oral histories (recorded or transcripts)
  • artistic and musical works
  • architectural works
  • costumes, theater and stage props, musical instruments
  • sounds

When read closely (keep in mind that visual images and objects can be "read" closely), primary sources offer us clues about the experience of a certain moment in history. Not only is it important to carefully evaluate these sources for the historical information they provide, it is crucial to interpret gaps and silences. What information from the era was documented, saved and later shared? Who made choices about history that was documented and saved? Why? What and who were left out? Why? Understanding the information we have, along with the resounding silences, helps us form a more comprehensive picture of the experience of a particular period. Instead of a dominant, cohesive narrative, history offers us a milieu of perspectives and voices ... if we are willing to dig deep enough and stop to listen. Evaluating and using these voices from the past helps bring authenticity to research, and in turn, to your creative projects.

Image: Modini Ranch Journal, Sonoma State University Special Collections

Where can I find primary sources?


You can find primary sources in a number of different places. Search the SSU Library collections to find published speeches, diaries and other documents - including books, articles and films - from the 1930s. You can also search on the web for images, films and other primary sources documenting historical events and time periods. Our Digital Collections Guide provides links to various collections of free online primary source material. Below are just a few ideas for locating primary sources in the Sonoma State Library:


SSU has rich Special Collections material related to the 1930s. Keep in mind that, as in many Special Collections, not everything in SSU's collections is digitized and available online. Browsing collections in person is a great way to immerse yourself in the time period and make new discoveries. Due to the rare and unique nature of Special Collections, they are not typically available in the open library, and appointments are required. If any of these items look interesting to you, please contact us -- we encourage you to visit Special Collections in small groups. See Using Special Collections for more details.

Special Collections here at the SSU Library provide access to various primary sources related to the 1930s in their original format, including the Dust Bowl Migration Archive, the Spanish Civil War Collection and the Modini Ranch Journals (also available online through our North Bay Digital Collections).   


You can also discover published primary sources - including books, films, and articles from newspapers and magazines - using OneSearch, our library collection discovery tool. Just limit your search to a date range by entering 1930-1939 along the side. Here's an example: