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Find Primary Sources: Introduction

Five College Collections

Five College Archives & Manuscripts Collections

Five College Archives & Manuscripts

Search over 1,500 finding aids (or inventories) describing the archives and manuscripts found at the Five Colleges.

Those less familiar with archival research may start with the Five College Archives & Manuscripts Primary Source Research Guide:

Primary Sources on the Web

Using Primary Sources on the Web (American Library Association - Reference User Services Association)

Archive Finders

What is a Primary Source?

Athletics from A Booke of Memories of the Class of Ninety Fivedetail from illuminated medieval manuscript pageinterior of Dewey House, Smith College, 1904image from Woolf's manuscript

[Click on an image to view enlarged.]

A primary source is a record of an event, an occurrence, or a time period produced by a participant or observer at the time. Typically, primary sources include:

  • unique documents or manuscripts (letters, diaries, journals, writings, speeches, photographs, scrapbooks, etc.)
  • historic records of an organization (correspondence, memoranda, minutes, annual reports, etc.).
  • government documents & maps
  • artwork & artifacts
  • music & audiovisual materials (film, audio and video tape)
  • electronic computer files

Primary sources are often found housed in archival collections. See the Collections at Smith tab of this guide.

They can also be found in published forms, such as newspapers, magazine articles, pamphlets and other printed materials produced during the time period under study. Often they have been digitized and are available online. See:

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Smith College Special Collections

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Special Collections Concentrations

Courses of study at Smith College focusing on primary sources: