Skip to Main Content

American Studies

​Find Primary Sources

The Real Deal

If you are interested in viewing the original primary resource (rather than a preproduction, reprint, or digital version) you will need to visit an archive or special collection.  Each archive will collect for a certain topic or time period.  Visiting that archive's website and/or online catalog will help you determine what it holds. WorldCat also includes records for archival collections.  Some Indianapolis archives and libraries with original primary resources include: IUPUI University Library Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, Indiana State Library, Indiana State Archives, and Indiana Historical Society. 

To best access original archival and manuscript collections via IUCAT, WorldCat or other library catalogs, look for mechanisms in the advanced search functions that allow you to limit by archive or manuscript.  For example in WorldCat's Advanced Search screen you can put a check next to Archival Materials.

  • National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) Created by the Library of Congress beginning in 1959 this catalog brings together the catalog records for millions of manuscript collections from across United States libraries, archives, museums, etc.  1959-1986 records/indexes are only accessible in print at IUPUI (other libraries may have access to digital versions).  See call # Z6620.U5 N3 for those volumes.  Post-1959 records are accessible via WorldCat.

Reprinted Primary Resources in IUCAT, World Cat, or other library catalogs

Remember that primary sources may be in the form of reprints (monograph compilations, reprinted letters, diaries, microfilm, etc.)  Doing a search in a library catalog adding the following subject headings to your keyword search, will help you find these reprints as well as original archival collections:




early works to 1800









pictorial works




Freely Available Digital Primary Resources 

Some of the collections of primary resources listed above are freely available resources, digitized and placed online for scholarly use by cultural institutions such as libraries, museums, and historical societies.  Many other collections of this nature exist and can be located through a simple Google search.  Search strategies for locating possible collections: 1) Try a simple keyword search (Ex. Indianapolis Sanborn maps) 2) Try searching for the museums and libraries geographically or topically related to your research project. (Ex. Indiana Historical Society)

A word of caution, If you are searching the open web for primary sources make sure you carefully evaluate the source and site.  Don’t just assume the digitized document is a quality resource. 

American History Digital Primary Resources

Digital Primary Resources: Literature