Primary sources are records created during the time period under study. Some examples of primary sources include but are not limited to:
When 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. Ask yourself: 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 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: 1970s Peace Festival Poster, Sonoma State University Special Collections
You can find primary sources in a number of different places. There are Special Collections here at the SSU Library with various primary sources related to the 1960s; you can search the library catalog to find published speeches, diaries and other documents from the 1960s; you can search online for images, films and other primary sources documenting historical events and time periods. Below are just a few ideas for locating primary sources:
SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AT SSU
SSU has rich Special Collections material related to the 1960s. 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.
Here are a few ideas of SSU Special Collections items you could browse in person:
FINDING PRIMARY SOURCES USING THE LIBRARY CATALOG
You can discover published primary sources using the Library Catalog (the Advanced Search works best). Here's an example:
Note: Narrowing by topic, for example, "civil rights," is best; keep in mind other key terms that may have been used to describe the topic.
You can also find more collections of digitized (online) primary sources at museums, libraries and other institutions by checking out this Research Guide: FINDING PRIMARY SOURCES ONLINE