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History - U.S.: Primary Sources

A general guide for researching U.S. history

Digitized Collections Online

American Memory 

Primary source documents and archives for U.S. history from the Library of Congress. Includes printed text, photographs, images, scanned manuscripts, etc.


Calisphere provides free access to unique and historically important artifacts for research, teaching, and curious exploration. Discover over one million photographs, documents, letters, artwork, diaries, oral histories, films, advertisements, musical recordings, and more.

Compilation of Presidential Documents 

The Compilation of Presidential Documents collection consists of the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents and the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents which are the official publications of materials released by the White House Press Secretary. The Compilation of Presidential Documents is published by the Office of the Federal Register (OFR), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Digital Public Library of America

Discover 29,474,312 images, texts, videos, and sounds from across the United States.

Documenting the American South 

Digital publishing project by the University of North Carolina Library that provides access to images, texts, and audio files relating to Southern history, culture, and literature.‚Äč

HathiTrust Digital Library

Digital repository of collections located in various libraries and includes a searchable databases of digitized materials.

Internet Archive

The Internet Archive contains: 279 billion web pages; 11 million books and texts; 4 million audio recordings (including 160,000 live concerts); 3 million videos (including 1 million Television News programs); 1 million images; 100,000 software programs.  Not all items in the Internet Archive are primary sources.

National Archives (NARA)

The National Archives was established in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt, but its major holdings date back to 1775. They capture the sweep of the past: slave ship manifests and the Emancipation Proclamation; captured German records and the Japanese surrender documents from World War II; journals of polar expeditions and photographs of Dust Bowl farmers; Indian treaties making transitory promises; and a richly bound document bearing the bold signature "Bonaparte"—the Louisiana Purchase Treaty that doubled the territory of the young republic.

NARA keeps only those Federal records that are judged to have continuing value—about 2 to 5 percent of those generated in any given year. By now, they add up to a formidable number, diverse in form as well as in content. There are approximately 10 billion pages of textual records; 12 million maps, charts, and architectural and engineering drawings; 25 million still photographs and graphics; 24 million aerial photographs; 300,000 reels of motion picture film; 400,000 video and sound recordings; and 133 terabytes of electronic data. All of these materials are preserved because they are important to the workings of Government, have long-term research worth, or provide information of value to citizens.

NYPL Digital Collections

Explore 747,464 items digitized from The New York Public Library's collections.  This site is a living database with new materials added every day, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming video, and more.

Umbra Search: African American History

Brings together hundreds of thousands digitized materials from over 1,000 libraries and archives across the country.

Kentucky-Specific Digitized Collections


Textual and visual records of the University of Kentucky. Included are: UK yearbooks, minutes of the Board of Trustees, athletics archives, photographic images, etc.

Kentucky Digital Library 

Part of the Kentucky Virtual Library; provides online finding aids and digitized material from archival collections across the state of Kentucky.

Kyleidoscope: Explore Kentucky History Online 

Initiative of the Kentucky Virtual Library’s Kentucky Digital Library that seeks to create convenient avenues for educators to access primary resources regarding the history of Kentucky. Bundles together related sources and places them within historical contexts while also suggesting applicable state Combined Curriculum Standards. These bundles are called "themed collections" and are intended for classroom use.

Center for Research Libraries

The Center for Research Libraries has a number of microfilmed collections, international newspapers, and official documents from countries outside the U.S. 

CRL: Center for Research Libraries

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is an international consortium of university, college, and independent research libraries. Founded in 1949, CRL supports original research and inspired teaching in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences by preserving and making available to scholars a wealth of rare and uncommon primary source materials from all world regions.

CRL: Ethnic Newspapers Search

CRL Topic Guides

Each guide includes a short writeup on the landscape of the field of study, links to relevant primary source collections at CRL, and links out to related sources.

Digital Collections

CRL digitizes materials from our collections to support research and teaching. CRL also negotiates favorable terms with publishers for member institutions to acquire major electronic resources locally.