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Drama 54-281 Foundations of Drama II: Historical Resources: Primary Resources

Primary Sources

Primary resources are direct links to the past including original documents, artifacts or accounts produced by a creator/witness in close space and time to the person or event. In the purest sense the source is in its original form--not condensed, interpreted or evaluated.

  • birth certificate, letters, diaries, correspondence, memoranda, photographs, oral recordings or transcripts, documentary media (photography, audio, video), art work, interviews, legal documents, court records, testimonies, scrapbooks, speeches, electronic recordings or facsimiles from a viable source...
  • be aware that original documents can be biased and/or persons and events misinterpreted. 

Some primary source databases

Early Encounters in North America
Narratives, diaries, journals, and letters of traders, slaves, missionaries, explorers, soldiers, native peoples, and officials.


Over 100,000 books, pamphlets and broadsides published in the English language in any country from 1475 through 1700

Early Experiences in Australasia: Primary Sources and Personal Narratives 1788-1901: Volume I
First-person accounts, including letters and diaries, narratives, and other primary source materials providing a unique and personal view of events in the region from the arrival of the first settlers through to Australian Federation at the close of the nineteenth century.

Empire Online
Essays and original documents relating to Empire Studies, race, class, imperialism, and colonialism, sourced from libraries and archives around the world.

is a full-text database containing 140 international publications plus reports, pamphlets, papers and conference proceedings devoted to women and gender issues. The database contains archival material, in some cases back as far as the 1970's, with additional archival material continually added, making this the repository of an important historical perspective on the evolution of the women's movement and the changes in gender roles and understandings over the last 15 to 20 years

Sabin Americana, 1500-1926
consists of works about the North, Central & South America, the Arctic & Antarctica and the West Indies, published not only in the United States but internationally. This resource offers original accounts of exploration, pioneering, settlement, the western movement, military actions, Native Americans, slavery and abolition. It also covers such topics as American women, cities and states, the Civil War, immigration and politics, etc.

Social and Cultural History: Letters and Diaries Online
The most comprehensive archive of social memory yet created, Social and Cultural History: Letters and Diaries Online allows students, scholars, and online researchers to experience the past through thousands of private writings and personal narratives. The resource is a unique forum that brings together the voices of ordinary men and women from all walks of life with the personal accounts of well-known historical figures.

Accessable Archives
Accessible Archives makes available vast quantities of archived historical information, previously furnished only on microfilm. It contains several ethnic papers such as 19th century African American Newspapers and the Colored American.

Defining Gender (1450-1910)
Provides access to primary sources for the study and analysis of gender that focuses on 15th to early 20th century and covers 5 major themes: Conduct and Politness, Domesticity and Family, Consumption and Leisure, Education and Sensibility, and the Body. It contains images, ephemera, pamphlets, college records and exam papers, books, diaries, periodicals, letters, ledgers, account books, education practice and pedagogy, government papers, illustrated writings on anatomy, and much more...


Literature Resource Center
A comprehensive resource for research on literary topics, authors, and their works, covering all genres and disciplines, all time periods, and all regions of the world.

Suffragist Oral History Project

Interviews with twelve leaders and participants in the woman's suffrage movement

The HistoryMakers
The largest African-American video oral history collection

Oral History Online
More than 2,700 collections of Oral History in English from around the world.


Streaming media

American Newsreels in Video
News footage covering the years leading up to and during the Second World War.

World Newsreels Online
Captures full runs of many of the key international newsreels produced during the early twentieth century. Newsreels are in English, French and Japanese.

Ethnographic Sound Archives Online
Over 2,000 hours of previously unpublished historic field recordings from around the world, alongside their supporting field notes and ethnographers’ metadata, opening new paths for the study of music in its cultural contex