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MLANG 280 - Studies in World Lit/Culture - Top/War & Memory 20th Century Europe

Class library research guide for Studies in World Literature & Culture.

Library Research Guide

What are Primary Sources?

A primary source is anything that has been created by a person who witnessed or experienced an event as a contemporary, such as

  • letters
  • diaries
  • autobiographies
  • oral histories
  • photographs

Primary sources also include things written, published, or recorded at the time of the event, such as

  • contemporaneous newspaper articles
  • contemporaneous government documents
  • contemporaneous film footage

Searching for Primary Sources in Search It

Use Search It to look for books containing primary sources. 

Some books will include primary sources like diaries, letters, journals, manifests, maps, photographs, interviews, and more. 

To locate primary sources add these keywords to your search: 

  • "sources"
  • "documents"
  • "correspondence" or "letters"
  • "personal narratives"
  • "papers"

Additionally, many books will have appendices containing samples of primary sources used by the author.

Primary Sources in Databases

K-State Libraries subscribes to primary source databases. These include films, photographs, and even audio files.

Some databases relevant to war and memory include:

Finding Archives and Digital Collections Online

Googling is a great way to find archives and digital collections online. However, sometimes these collections are hidden several levels deep and aren't readily unearthed by Google.

Finding Digital Archives

Here are questions to help locate a digital collection or archive:

  • Who cares about this topic? Look for associations and historical societies.
  • Is there a city, town, country associated with your topic? Do they have an archive, library, or museum that might store the collection?
  • Are there associations of survivors or their descendants? Search for the names of communities, military units, camps, or battles.

Pinterest? Instagram? (No)

Find primary sources from established museums, archives, or the databases that K-State Libraries subscribes to. Sites and apps like Pinterest and Instagram reproduce a lot of compelling images. However, museums and archives provide important informationlike dates, locations, and who is mentioned/discussedthat can help you understand the source. This information is often absent from social media. 

Reverse Image Search

If you do find an imagea photograph, a reproduced article or memobut do not know its history, try Google's Reverse Image Search. This lets you start with an image and find other sites with that image or similar images. Ideally, you will find the institution that owns the image and can provide the history or context.

Archives of Primary Source Materials

These online archives provide materials related to the Holocaust prior to and including World War II.

Holocaust Memorials and Museums

These four sites are focused purely on the Holocaust.

World War II

These two sites cover World War II in general and will provide the broader context of the Holocaust in France.

Multimedia Archives

These sites include film and photographs.