Identifying and using primary and secondary sources to examine and analyze historical events, activities, or people allows for a more comprehensive & investigative learning experience. Many of the Washington state Social Studies Classroom Based Assessments require analyzing primary and secondary sources.
What are Primary Sources? What are Secondary Sources?
The following definitions were provided by Michael Saunders, Puget Sound Regional Archivist, for the 4Culture New Directions in Heritage Education Workshop Resource Notebook in 2006.
- Are left behind by participants or observers.
- Make connections to the past.
- Are evidence used by historians to support their interpretation of the past.
Primary Sources Include:
- Artifacts: Buildings, Tombstones, Clothing
- Audio: Oral histories, Interviews, Recordings
- Images: Photographs, Film, Art and Posters, Advertisements, Maps
- Records: Government Documents, Census Data, Birth/Wedding/Death Certificates, Organizational Minutes, Business Reports
- Unpublished Materials: Diaries, Letters, Manuscripts
- Published Materials: Books (including memoirs), Magazines, Newspapers
- Are accounts of the past created by people writing about events after they have happened.
- Are what historians and History Day participants create.
- Provide hints on where to find Primary Sources.
- Show how a topic has been interpreted by other historians.
- Provide information which enables historians to make sense of primary sources.
Secondary Sources Include:
Note from HistoryLink.org Education: The original content essays on HistoryLink.org (cyberpedias and timeline histories) are SECONDARY sources. The People's Histories are mostly PRIMARY sources.
HistoryLink.org's Guide to Primary Source Collections
This guide contains information on where to find primary sources on Washington state history. Some of these resources can be accessed online (marked W for Web-based resource) while some are kept on-site at archivist facilities (marked V for Visit the site)
Library of Congress (W) : Sets of selected primary sources on specific topics, available as easy-to-print PDFs. Also includes background material and tools to guide student analysis.
Northwest Digital Archives (W) provides access to descriptions of primary sources in the Northwestern United States, including correspondence, diaries, or photographs. Digital reproductions of primary sources are available in some cases. Search the Digital Guide at
Voices of the First People (W) honors the life and work of Upper Skagit elder Vi Hilbert and provides online access to audio and video recordings from the Vi Hilbert Collection. This website which features Hilbert's work as a storyteller,teacher, and culturebearer was created in partnership with the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archives and Northwest Heritage Resources. Visit
Washington Rural Heritage Collection (W) is a collection of photos, documents, maps, and other interesting ephemera from rural libraries, museum, and other small repositories. This project was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services to identify, scan, and share previously undiscovered and unaccessible historical treasures from across the state of Washington.
Washington History Day Topic Guide (W) allows you to search for subjects within Pacific Northwest history that are of interest to you and locate primary source documents on those topics in nearby archives or libraries. Search the Digital Guide at
Washington State Historical Society (V, W) in Tacoma collections include many different kinds of artifacts; among them are tools, clothing, machines, furniture, artwork, toys, household items, and American Indian artifacts. They also hold an extensive archival collection of photographs, manuscripts, maps, ephemera, and publications. Plan a visit at http://research.washingtonhistory.org/ or search the Image Collections at
Washington State Library (V, W) in Olympia hosts many materials on the government, history, culture, and natural resources of the state. Plan a visit or search the Digital Collections at
The National Archives Pacific Alaska Region (V) is headquartered in Seattle. NARA holds 37,000 + cubic feet of original documents from Federal Agencies located in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and parts of Montana. The records consist of correspondence, forms, maps, photographs, drawings, blueprints, lists, reports, and much more. Plan a visit at
The Museum of History & Industry (V, W) features many artifacts pertaining to Washington state history. Plan a visit at http://www.seattlehistory.org/col_res.cfm or visit the Digital Collections at
The Seattle Municipal Archives (V) holds over 10,000 cubic feet of records documenting the history, development, and activities of the agencies and elected officials of Seattle. Some of the research strengths of the holdings include parks, engineering, legislative activities, and urban planning. Plan a visit at
Historical Society of Federal Way (V) hosts artifacts, documents, photos, maps, panels, phone directories, election and city commission information, King County and State information, the Federal Way News and Mirror Newspaper from 1953 on, oral histories, historic photo collections, vintage clothing, vintage quilts, club scrapbooks, woodworking tools, vintage maps, and local high school annuals. Plan a visit at
Skykomish Historical Society (V, W) is a repository for historical documents, photographs, memorabilia, and artifacts relating to the area and its people. Through the “Past Perfect” process the society has over 2,000 records currently on its website for public viewing. Plan a visit at
The Governor Gary Locke Library & Community Heritage Center (V) encompasses the Wing Luke Museum's collection of artifacts, archives, photographs, oral histories, video histories, books and reference materials of the Asian Pacific American community. The GGLL-CHC transcends the formal boundaries of traditional museum collections and libraries by richly combining the two. Rather than having a separate collection, artifacts of material culture are incorporated with oral, printed and visual records. Plan a visit at
The Filipino American National Historical Society’s National Pinoy Archives (V) is a simple, non-professional repository, initiated in 1987 in Seattle to appraise, collect, preserve and make accessible to the public for research textual, graphic, and electronic historical records -- some dating as early as pre-World War I, to document the Filipino American Experience relative to individuals, groups, organizations, institutions and facilities. Plan a visit at
White River Valley Museum (V, W) is home to paper archives such historic maps, magazines, yearbooks, census reports and other government and union documents; personal ephemera such as diaries, scrapbooks, letters, cards, and invitations on subjects such as pioneer life, Japanese American immigration and life in the valley, farming, and early commerce; professional ephemera such as railroad tickets, schedules, and other documents; farming records and contracts; oral history recordings and transcriptions of over 25 Auburn community members on topics such as railroading, farming, flooding, fashion, commerce, education and World War II; and over 6,000 photographs available for viewing online. Plan a visit at
or search the Digital Collections at
University of Washington Special Collections (V, W) in Seattle is the University of Washington Libraries' major resource for rare and archival materials covering a broad range of topics, formats, and periods. Plan a visit at http://www.lib.washington.edu/speciaLcoll/
or search the Digital Collections at
Washington State University's Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (V, W) in Pullman collections consist of records and documents of historical value, including manuscripts, photographs, audio and video tapes, films, printed and published materials (books, maps, broadsides, etc.). Plan a visit at http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/holland/masc/index.php or search the Digital Collections at
Central Washington University Brooks Library Collections (V, W) in Ellensburg consists of books, government documents, maps, microforms, and other items on Washington State history. Plan a visit at http://www.lib.cwu.edu/collections/index.html or search the Digital Collections at
Western Washington University’s Special Collections (V, W) in Bellingham collects, organizes, describes, preserves, and maintains unique intellectual and cultural heritage materials and promotes the use of these resources by the University community, scholars, and the public. Plan a visit at http://www.library.wwu.edu/specialcollections/ or search the Digital Collections at
Center for Pacific Northwest Studies (V) in Bellingham collects private papers, organizational, and institutional records documenting economic, social, cultural, and political trends significant to the study of the Pacific Northwest. The collections include a few items from the late eighteenth century, but most date from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. The format of the center's holdings vary widely, ranging from photographs, maps, architectural drawings, audio and video tapes, diaries, letters, business ledgers and account books, newspapers, and scrapbooks. Plan a visit at
The Whitman College and Northwest Archives (V, W) in Walla Walla curates materials that document the history of Whitman College and the Walla Walla region as well as rare books and other special collections housed in the Penrose Library. Plan a visit at
Experience Music Project (W) has an extensive archive of oral histories. Search the Digital Collections at
Pacific Lutheran University Archives and Special Collections (V) in Tacoma is the official repository of primary and secondary source materials pertaining to Pacific Lutheran University, to the Scandinavian Immigrant Experience, the Lutheran Church and to Northwest History. Plan a visit at
Whitworth University Archives (V) in Spokane actively collects, processes and preserves all records and materials pertaining to the history of Whitworth University. The archives also collect and house materials related to the history of Protestantism in the Pacific Northwest. Plan a visit at
The Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture Archives Collections (V) in Spokane collects and makes available for research primary and secondary sources that document and interpret the history, art, and culture of the Inland Northwest/Pacific Northwest that are not readily available at other institutions in the Inland Northwest or Pacific Northwest. Plan a visit at
BlackPast.org (W) is largely an online encyclopedia featuring secondary sources on African American history. It does, however, host some primary sources concerning African Americans in the West, including African Americans in Washington state. View relevant speeches at http://www.blackpast.org/?q=african-american-history-major-speeches
and documents at
Washington State University's Black Oral Histories Project (W) is an online database of oral history interviews of black pioneers and their descendents throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Recorded in the 1970s. Search the Online Database at
Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Projects (W) consist of nine projects that bring together nearly one hundred video oral history interviews and several thousand photographs, documents, and digitized newspaper articles. The projects also feature more than one hundred research reports written by undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Washington. Search the Digital Collections at
Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project (W) has developed a comprehensive website that features primary sources, curriculum, and other resources that pertain to the internment of Washington state residents of Japanese descent during Word War II. Primary sources include over 400 oral histories and 10,700 Historic photographs, documents, and newspapers. Search the Digital Collections at http://www.densho.org/
Densho: Digital Video Archive (W): Densho has over 400 oral histories (of those who were touched by the incarceration of the Japanese American people following the attack on Pearl Harbor) in its archives -- many of which are available in audio or video format. The video interviews are fully transcribed and segmented for ease of viewing. The interviews and images are indexed by topic, location and chronology, and can be searched using keywords. http://www.densho.org/archive/default.asp) Another good way to access the archived video interviews is through Densho’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/DenshoProject.
American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Collection (W) provides an extensive digital collection of original photographs and documents about the Northwest Coast and Plateau Indian cultures. The digital databases includes over 2,300 original photographs as well as over 1,500 pages from the Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior from 1851 to 1908 and six Indian treaties negotiated in 1855. Secondary sources include 89 articles from the Pacific Northwest Quarterly and 23 University of Washington publications in Anthropology. Search the Digital Collections at
Northwest Digital Collections (W)
Everett and Snohomish County historic photographs, manuscripts, artwork, maps and audio/video resources online. http://www.epls.org/nw/digital.asp
Washington State Digital Archives (W) contains over 3.7 million records, including marriage, naturalization, census, death, birth, and military records. Search the Digital Collections at
The Washington State Constitution (W) is available to view online. Search the Digital Version at
Seattle Times Historical Archives (W)are now accessible free through the Seattle Public Library (SPL) website. Digitized copies of the Seattle Times from 1900 to 1984 are found in the Seattle Times Historical Archives online database on the SPL website. The archive is fully searchable and users can print, magnify, and save digital copies of the Seattle Times. It is necessary to obtain a valid Seattle Library Card to access the SPL resources.
Historic Newspapers in Washington State Online Project (W) is part of the Washington State Library’s program to make its rare, historical resources more accessible to students, teachers, and citizens across the state. Search the Digital Collections at
Washington History Historical Maps (W) holds extensive maps collections dealing with the Washington State and the surrounding region. Maps for this digital collection will be drawn from state and territorial government records, historic books, federal documents, and the Northwest collection. Search the Digital Collections at
Classics in Washington History (W) is a digital collection of full-text books brings together rare, out of print titles for easy access by students, teachers, genealogists and historians. Visit Washington's early years through the lives of the men and women who lived and worked in Washington territory and state. Search the Digital Collections at
Washington Rural Heritage (W) is a collection of historic materials documenting the early culture, industry, and community life of Washington State. The collection is a project of small, rural libraries and cultural institutions throughout Washington. Search the Digital Collections at
King County Snapshots (W) features more than 12,000 historical images carefully chosen from 13 different organizations' collections. Search the Digital Collections at http://content.lib.washington.edu/imls/kcsnapshots/index.html
National Jukebox (W), launched by the National Library of Congress and Sony Music Entertainment, is being billed as "the largest collection of historical recordings ever made publicly available." And you don't have to drop any coin to get it to play. This new website provides access to more than ten thousand historical recordings for free on a streaming-only basis – no downloads. It covers the first quarter of the twentieth century and includes music, poetry, political speeches and other spoken word recordings.
Google books (W) has issues of magazines and books published in the 19th and 20th centuries that can be valuable sources of first-person accounts of historical events.
Check with your local museums, libraries, and historical societies for more!