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Primary sources are the "raw materials" of scholarship. Examples of primary sources vary by discipline. Your selection of primary source materials for your research project will depend on your topic and your approach.
It's a good idea to explore more than one possibility for your primary sources; try to identify at least three possibilities and then browse through all three before making your final choice.
The examples and collections listed below are just a sampling; ask a librarian for help in identifying additional primary sources.
Image from xkcd comics.
Newspapers and Magazines
In addition to the online collections linked below, print copies of popular magazines like Time, Newsweek, Harper's and Life are are also available in the Print Journals sections on the lower level of Collins Library. Check Primo for holdings information.
Readers' Guide Retrospective: 1890-1982
Contains comprehensive indexing of the most popular general-interest periodicals published in the United States. Click on the link to check for full-text to see if Collins Library has the article. If the library doesn't have access, request the item through Tipasa and receive a digital copy in just a few days.
New York Times Historical Newspaper
Includes full page images of the New York Daily Times (1851-1857) and the New York Times (1857-2012).
New York Times (nytimes.com)
Full and unlimited access to all of the content on The New York Times web site (including NYT Cooking!). Users must register and log in.
Los Angeles Times Historical Newspaper (1881-1995)
Full page and article images with searchable full text back to the first issue of the Los Angeles Times newspaper.
A fully searchable electronic version of the magazine's complete backfile, offering a 145-year archive of reporting opinion and criticism. The archive contains thousands of historic articles, editorials, letters, reviews, poems, and puzzles dating back to 1865 through the present.
London Times Digital Archive
Since its first publication in 1785, The Times (London) has become one of the most preeminent, global daily (except Sundays) newspapers of the 18th century through the early 21st century, covering international events, people, places, politics, business news, opinion and debate, entertainment, and advertising.
Reports, Data, and Statistics
Depending on your focus and if you are interested in pursuing a data-driven project, you may be able to use industry or market reports or data sets from the following sources.
Economic Research Service (Dept. of Agriculture)
Topics focus on agriculture, including commodity prices, rural economies, and trade/international markets.
National Agriculture Statistics Service
The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture. Production and supplies of food and fiber, prices paid and received by farmers, farm labor and wages, farm finances, chemical use, and changes in the demographics of U.S. producers are only a few examples.
A research tool designed to provide access to historical census data and demographic information. It creates maps and reports to help users visually analyze and understand demography and social change throughout history.
Primary Sources in the Sciences
Primary sources in the sciences are publications which provide a full description of original research and the present the results of that research. The most common example of a primary source in the sciences is a scholarly article published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Contains bibliographic records from the U.S. National Agricultural Library. Subjects include animal and veterinary sciences, entomology, plant sciences, forestry, aquaculture and fisheries, agricultural economics, food and human nutrition, agricultural engineering and technology, and earth and environmental sciences.
It might initially seem odd to think of outdated scholarly work as primary source material. However, scholars work in specific times and contexts which in turn leave a mark on their scholarship.
Several subject (scholarly) databases include extensive journal backfiles, sometimes dating back to the late nineteenth century. The trick is to use the date limiters to make sure the results you get are from particular eras.
Databases with older scholarship:
Academic libraries and historical museums often try to digitize primary source collections held in their archives and special collections in order to make them available to the widest possible audience. This is only a sampling of the collections out there, just to get you started!
A digital library of images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences, with a set of tools to view, present, and manage images.
Cookbooks and Home Economics Archive
Includes books from early decades of the 20th century covering topics on cookery, textiles, family and home, budgeting, domestic sciences, and many other delightful topics.
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000
Companion website to a Smithsonian exhibition considering the factors that helped transform food and its production, preparation, and consumption in post-WWII America.
Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project
An online collection of some of the most important and influential American cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century.
Culinary Institute of America Menu Collection
Contains hundreds of early menus from CIA restaurants and events that are searchable by keyword.
What's on the Menu?
With approximately 45,000 menus dating from the 1840s to the present, The New York Public Library’s restaurant menu collection is one of the largest in the world, used by historians, chefs, novelists and everyday food enthusiasts.
Trade Cards: An Illustrated History
This online exhibit features highlights from the Waxman Collection of Food and Culinary Trade Cards—a remarkable assemblage of advertising trade cards about food and related subjects ca. 1870-1900. From Cornell University.
Anthologies of Primary Sources
These anthologies contain a rich variety of primary source materials--government documents, diaries, newspaper articles, etc. The advantage of using anthologies of primary sources is that the selections will have been curated and annotated by scholars who can provide context for each document.
The Great Famine in China, 1958-1962: a documentary history by
Call Number: HC430.F3 G74 2012 Print Books
Publication Date: 2012
Click on the title above for online access. Drawing on previously closed archives that have since been made inaccessible again, Zhou Xun offers readers, for the first time in English, access to the most vital archival documentation of the world's worst famine.
American Appetites: a documentary reader by
Call Number: GT2853.U5 A46 2014 Print Books
Publication Date: 2014
Click the title above for online access. Brings together compelling firsthand testimonies describing the nation's collective eating habits throughout times.
The Food History Reader: primary sources by
Call Number: TX353 .F636 2014 Print Books
Publication Date: 2014
This collection spans the globe from classical antiquity to the present, offering substantive selections from cookbooks, fiction, gastronomic and dietary treatises and a wide range of food writing. Provides a solid introduction to each period with extensive commentary and suggestions for interpretive strategies.
American Decades Primary Sources (1900-1999) by
Call Number: Click on the title above for online access
Includes full or excerpted primary sources representing the seminal issues, themes, movements and events from each decade.
Puget Sound Archives & Special Collections
The Archives & Special Collections collects, preserves, and makes available primary source material for the research and teaching use of our students, faculty, and staff. In addition to documenting life at the University, the collections represent regional, national and international issues.
Several options are listed below or you can browse a small selection of photographs, historical documents, digitized collections, and archival collections online.
If you would like assistance researching primary sources in the Archives & Special Collections, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Modernist Cuisine. The Art and Science of Cooking by
Call Number: TX651 .M94 2011 v. 1-6 Special Collections
Publication Date: 2011
An overview of the techniques of modern gastronomy. This six-volume 2,400 page set reveals science-inspired techniques for preparing food.
Modernist Bread by
Call Number: TX769 .M947 2017o v. 1-6 Special Collections
Publication Date: 2017
In the space of five volumes plus a recipe manual, this groundbreaking set tells the story of one of the world's most important foods in new and different ways.
Collins Library also has a large collection of artists' books, including several that engage food-related topics. A few examples are listed below.
An omnivore's memoir by
Call Number: N7433.4.E344 O45 2013o Special Collections
An artists' book, issued in black cloth-covered box; inside contents presented in an oversized kitchen utensil drawer organizer.
The Sandwich Generation by
Call Number: N7433.4.P38 S26 2013 Special Collections
An artists' book that addresses debt, meeting family obligations and responsibilities of the present economic times for Baby Boomers. The viewer can manually stack the pieces of the sandwich randomly or logically.
University Historical Sources:
Digitized issues of the student newspaper.
Includes information about academic departments and course offerings; some years are missing online but print versions are available in the archives
Historic images from the University's Archives Collection
A&SC also has many menus and university related cookbooks. Some of these have been scanned and added to our digital ephemera collection. Contact email@example.com to learn more.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A small selection of digitized material from the Archives & Special Collections is available online 24/7.