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HIST491 Senior Seminar

General Strategy

  • Consult the bibliography, notes and acknowledgments in a good, recent secondary work on the subject that interests you -- does the writer tell you where the primary sources can be found?
  • Search WorldCat in Advanced Search and limit Format to Archival material 
  • Search for a person's papers, in WorldCat for that person as an Author. You will find both published and unpublished material by that person.
  • Can you identify an organization that was involved in the events you are studying? Search WorldCat for that organization as an Author.
  • Search in Advanced search in WorldCat or other catalogs and add terms that describe primary sources. 
    For example: diaries, personal correspondence, sources, letters, narratives, speeches, and history sources. 
    Sample search: Dust Bowl and sources 


Guides to libraries and archives worldwide

  • ArchiveGrid 
    Index to finding aids and other descriptive information about the holdings of manuscript and archival collections in libraries and research institutions throughout the world.
  • SNAC (Social Networks and Archival Context) is a freely available database of descriptions of the creators (people or organizations) of archival collections, unlike Archive Finder, WorldCat, and ArchiveGrid, which contain descriptions of collections. Its focus is on creating a network of AM collections which for any particular person or organization link to the names of associated persons and organizations.
  • CLIR Hidden Collections Registry (Council on Library and Information Resources)
    The CLIR Hidden Collections registry is a discovery tool to highlight rare and unique library, archival, and museum collections. It features projects funded through CLIR’s Cataloging and Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives programs as well as numerous other special collections throughout the U.S. and Canada.
  • List of national and state libraries 
  • CIA Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room 
    The FOIA Electronic Reading Room is provided as a public service by the Directorate of Digital Innovation's Information Management Services.


Example: WorldCat Advanced search for archival material


#1. Know the Library of Congress Subject Terms

#2. Use Advanced Searching 

#3. Limit the Format to Archival Material 

Library databases containing primary sources