A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary resources include:

ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, photographs, original maps and drawings, letters, oral history interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records

CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art

RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Machinery, furniture, clothing, buildings

PUBLICATIONS: A publication, such as a magazine, newspaper, or scholarly journal, is a serial that is published in ongoing installments. Like books, serials can function both as primary sources and secondary sources depending on how one approaches them. Age is an important factor in determining whether a serial publication is primarily a primary or a secondary source. For instance, an article on slavery in a recent issue of the Journal of Southern History should be read as a secondary source, as a scholar’s attempt to interpret primary source materials such as ledgers, diaries, or government documents in order to write an account of the past. An article on slavery published in the Journal of Southern History in 1935, however, can be read not only as a secondary source on slavery but also – and perhaps more appropriately – it can be read as a primary source that reveals how scholars in the 1930s interpreted slavery.

What is a secondary source?

A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Some types of secondary sources include:

PUBLICATIONS: Textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, encyclopedias

WEBSITES: Online news outlets, Wikipedia, online journals, and even

Primary sources in the Steelworks Archives include over 100,000 photographs, more than 200 films, 30,000 maps and drawings, and hundreds of ledgers. These are in addition to the core collection of approximately 6000 cubic feet of records documenting CF&I’s steel production, iron and coal mining, geological records, labor relations, land and water resources, employee records, invoices and work orders, executive memoranda, correspondence, and much more, documenting every aspect of the company’s rich history.

We offer a few examples of primary sources in the links from this menu. For additional information contact us at