Primary Sources

Ten Public Domain Resources

Wesson describes primary sources as “the raw materials of history—original documents and objects which were created at the time under study” ( Wesson, 2011).  “Primary Sources are original textual (e.g., letter, diaries, speeches) and nontextual sources (e.g., photographs, drawings) of information that are available to learn more about a time period, person, or particular event. (Morgan & Rasinski, 2012).

  • Primary Sources at Yale: Links and search tools for all Yale libraries and museums containing  many primary sources including  music, art, sound recordings, oral histories, maps, realia, and visual materials. I would use this for accessing pictures and audio recordings especially related to science themes (tree frogs, rocks, etc.), and history.

         NETS*S 3

  • Library of Congress: Contains a teacher’s guide to using primary sources as well as links to primary sources by popular themes, by state, by topic, and by source set. I would use this site to find primary sources in history, art, science and maps.

         NETS*S 3 & NETS*T 2, 3

  • The National Archives: Teacher resources for getting started with primary sources. This site contains many images, graphs, charts, maps, audio, and video of American History. I would use this to supplement historical study and give background to national holidays and events.

         NETS*S 3 & NETS*T 2, 3

  • National Geographic: Links to collections of photographs for science, social studies, and geography. I would use this in the classroom for many inquiries which might include weather studies, animal studies, and landform studies.

         NETS*S 3

  • Smithsonian: A vast collection of images, sound files, works of art, and specimens. I would use these to study classic works of art, science topics, culture and history with students.

         NETS*S 3

  • Digital History: A timeline presentation of links to historical documents, court cases, newspaper articles and obituaries. There are also links to other sites with primary sources. I would use this site for social studies lessons and searching for poetry documents.

         NETS*S 3

  • Astronomy Picture of the Day: Pictures from June of 1995 to the present with a different picture each day. I would use these pictures when studying the solar system, constellations, astronauts, nebulae, galaxies etc.

         NETS*S 3

  • Repositories of Primary Sources: A listing of many websites by continent, country, and state which gives links to artifacts, and photographs from many museums, colleges, universities, and other collections. I would use this to look up artifacts that would be relevant to state and cultural studies.

         NETS*S 3

  • American Rhetoric’s Top 100 Speeches:  This site has a collection of the most important speeches from American history and original recordings of some speeches. I would use this to access famous speeches to supplement the social studies curriculum. Many of the speeches could be used during relevant units, and some could be used prior to holidays.  For example, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech could be shown prior to the holiday. I would give students a graphic organizer to key them into certain aspects of the speech to listen for/look for.

         NETS*S 3

  • Eduplace: This site has links to collections of primary sources divided into U.S. History and World History. I would use this to supplement the social studies curriculum.  There are links to information about American presidents, the South, American art, the Civil War, Egyptian artifacts, paleolithic French caves and medieval poetry to mention a few.

         NETS*S 3

Morgan, D. & Rasinski, T. (2012) The Power and Potential of Primary Sources. The Reading Teacher. 65 (8), pp. 584-594.

Wesson, S. (2011) What Makes a Primary Source a Primary Source? [Blog] Retrieved from .

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2 Responses to Primary Sources

  1. toddmican says:

    I thoroughly appreciate the hard work you have put into researching these primary sources. Many of the sites make short work of finding endless resource links; this would be especially helpful for a student that only feels comfortable navigating through one site to gather information – speaking specifically of the Yale site. I especially found the American Rhetoric site very user friendly and could easily see getting students excited about research in this area, sound and video bites make projects enjoyable and hold aesthetic promise. I would love to see how one topic could be linked through 2-3 of these resource sites. With the endless amounts of internet information it would be difficult to pick and choose the best sites for students to begin with. Which site did you find the most unique or helpful?

    • kfrisk12 says:

      I particulary like the National Geographic site for the vast array of content for elementary students, and the Digital History site for the timeline feature.

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