Skip to Main Content

History of U.S. Education

Finding Archival Collections

Think about who would create the documents. Who would collect and preserve them? Once you've identified potential libraries, look for finding aids on their archives/special collections web sites to discover what they have in print or digital collections. They may also offer help through chat and email to help get you started.

Primary Source Databases

The links below allow you search across several primary source collections at once. Consider deselecting databases that may not be relevant to your topic (e.g., British collections).

These history guides group primary source databases and other resources by time period.
Government documents are a rich source of information. Congressonal hearings, documents, and reports can contain analysis, background information, statistical data, and more.

Search Tips

  • Do some background research to learn more about people, events, and the political and socioeconomic environment of the time.
  • Find journal articles, books, and reference sources on your topic, and look in the footnotes and bibliography to see what primary sources the author(s) used.
  • Google your topic, and add words like archives, digitized, oral history, letter, papers, speech, or transcript. Be sure to evaluate the web site for authority and bias.
  • Think of words that reflect the language of the time (e.g., the Great War instead of World War I).
  • Remember that institutions may have changed their names.
  • Finding aids describe the contents of a collection. They can be very detailed, but they can also have minimal information if the collection has not been fully processed. Try doing broad searches for names and places within the finding aid.
  • Use words to describe primary sources, such as correspondence, interviews, manuscripts, personal narratives, pamphlets, or speeches.
  • If you get too many search results from a database, consider limiting by dates, material type, or source.
  • When using newspaper sources, broaden your desired day and month ranges to take into consideration that news traveled more slowly in that time period.