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AP US History: Finding Primary Resources

Some resources to help you prepare your AP US History paper

What is a primary source?

A primary source is original data or evidence that answers your historical questions, as opposed to another scholar’s interpretation of that same data. Typical primary sources are documents produced by witnesses to an event. Here are some examples:

  • Autobiography, memoir, diary
  • Photograph, Artwork
  • Interview, Lecture
  • Original research

When defining primary sources, it can be helpful to distinguish the content of a work from its physical format.  An original handwritten letter from the 1700s is obviously a primary source, but if the same letter is reproduced this year in a printed collection of historical documents or an electronic database, it is still a primary source.

Historic Newspapers

American Decades: Primary Sources

University of Georgia NHD Site

Local Digital Archives

Tennessee State Library and Archives: Users can search through numerous digital collections, including the photograph and image search and the Tennessee Virtual Archive, which include collections about the Tennessee School for the Deaf and the Civil War.

Volunteer Voices: Volunteer Voices is a statewide digitization program that provides online access to sources that document Tennessee’s rich history and culture. This program involves the collaborative efforts of Tennessee archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, and schools.

Digital Library of Georgia: Based at the University of Georgia, the Digital Library of Georgia connects users to 500,000 digital objects in 90 collections from 60 institutions and 100 government agencies. This resource is part of GALILEO, a resource for Georgia citizens.

Georgia State University Digital Collections: Designed for the interests of scholarly communities as well as the general public, this site houses more than 21,000 items of digital collections. Visitors should be sure to check out the Planning Atlanta collection.

Georgia’s Virtual Vault: View colonial wills, confederate pension applications, Georgia Power Photograph Collection, and more. Historical context for many of the records found in the Virtual Vault may be found in the articles of the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

The Virtual Library: Sponsored by Emory University, this list of resources includes the Lewis H. Beck Center among many other online collections and initiatives.



ArchiveGrid is a search engines that helps users find information about historical materials in over 1,000a rchives, libraries, museums and historical societies around the United States.  if you are looking for primary sources  related to your project topic, this a great place to start your search.  (Remember, this site will provide information about the sources and where they are located, but may does not provide direct access to digitized versions of the materials)

Search ArchiveGrid
Find archival collections and primary source materials

Google Books

Google Book Search

Some Recommended Websites