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HUMANITIES: SUBJECT GUIDE: Primary Sources

Starting points for research in the humanities

Literary Magazines - Databases

These databases contain the full text of several literary magazines.

Primary Sources in the Humanities

In the humanities, a primary source is a document or other sort of evidence written or created during the time under study, or by one of the persons or organizations directly involved in the event.

Types of Primary Sources:

  • Original Documents (including translations or excerpts): diaries, speeches, letters, minutes, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records.
  • Creative Works: poetry, drama, novels, music, art, films.
  • Relics or Artifacts: jewelry, pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings, tools.

Your choice of which primary sources to analyze in your projects will be very much dependent on the context of the assignment.

Puget Sound Archives & Special Collections, Humanities

The Archives & Special Collections collects, preserves, and makes available primary source material documenting life at the University as well as collections representing regional, national and international issues.

Herle, Charles, A fuller answer to a treatise written by Dr. Ferne..., 1642.

Nicholson, William, An introduction to natural philosophy. Illustrated with copper plates, 1782.

Descartes, René, Les principes de la philosophie, 1659.

Brande, William Thomas, A dictionary of science, literature, & art..., 1851.

Original medieval manuscript leaves and a few facsimiles.

The Abby Williams Hill papers, 1880s-1930s, document the life and work of this female painter and social activist in the early 20th century.  Hill was especially interested in early education and social justice.  She traveled extensively and recorded much of her life and experiences through letters and journals.

In addition, a small portion of photographshistorical documents, and digitized material are available online.  You can also browse archival and manuscript collections as well as rare books on Primo (limit the location to Archives & Special Collections on the left).

ARTstor and the Humanities

ARTstor is a digital library of over a million images.  For recommendations of specific collections within ARTstor to browse, consult the ARTstor Subject Guides, which identify collections amenable to the study of a full range of topics in the humanities, from photography to the Renaissance.

Naxos

Naxos Music Library Naxos Music Library is a comprehensive collection of classical music available online. It includes over 630,000 tracks, including classical, jazz, world and folk music. Select works by composer, artist, period, year of composition, instrument or genre. Playlists can also be created. Includes information about the works, artists and composers.

 

What's a primary source?

Primary sources are original, uninterpreted information.  Scholars analyze primary sources in order to answer research questions. Examples of primary sources vary by discipline.

Examples in the humanities:

  • a novel
  • a painting
  • a theatre performance

Examples in the social sciences:

  • a political, social, or economic theory
  • a dataset
  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Example in the sciences:

  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Archives & Special Collections Hours

Spring 2020 update:

The Archives & Special Collections is currently unable to host in-person researchers. If you need assistance or would like to set up a virtual appointment, please email us at archives@pugetsound.edu.

A small selection of digitized material from the Archives & Special Collections is available online 24/7.