Digital Collections

  • Collections of unique materials in archives and other repositories can be critical to historical research.
  • Some of this material is now being digitized to allow users access to materials without traveling to visit the repository.
  • These digital collections usually include only a small part of a collection's entire holdings.
  • Repositories usually select materials for digitization that are likely to be of wide interest to historians and the general public.
  • If you know the name of the institution that collects material in your subject area, search for them online to see what they can offer.

These are a sampling of some particularly useful collections of digitized primary sources:

American Memory
The Library of Congress is seeking to digitize many of it's unique American history holdings, and making them available through this website. Included are printed materials, manuscripts, sheet music, maps, photos and prints, motion pictures, and sound recordings.

DigitalNC: North Carolina's Digital Heritage
Statewide digitization and digital publishing program housed in the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Documenting the American South
Digitized collections from the Univesity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Includes the following collections:

First-Person Narratives of the American South
Library of Southern Literature
North American Slave Narratives
The Southern Homefront, 1861-1865
The Church in the Southern Black Community
The North Carolina Experience, Beginnings to 1940
North Carolinians and the Great War

American Slavery: A Composite Autobiography
A collection of the life histories of former slaves in the United States compiled through nearly 4,000 interviews with ex-slaves.  Contains the collection of over 2,000 interviews conducted in seventeen states between 1936 and 1938 under the Federal Writers' Project of the Work Progress Administration, as published in 1972 in The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography edited by George P. Rawick.

The Core Historical Literature of Agriculture
Digitazed collection of key materials relating to history of agriculture in the United States, selected by scholars for their historical importance, from Mann Library, Cornell University.

Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library
Duke Library has digitized a number of collections of original materials, proving access to fascinating collections of rare materials. Included are Ad*Access (An image database of over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955, and covering five categories - Beauty and Hygiene, Radio, Television, Transportation, and World War II) and Medicine and Madison Avenue (images of health advertisements and supplemetary documents).

Colonial North American Project at Harvard University
When complete, the project will make available to the world digitized images of all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library that relate to 17th and 18th century North America.

History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web
This site serves as a gateway to web resources and offers unique teaching materials, first-person primary documents, and guides to analyzing historical evidence.

New York Public Library Digital Gallery
NYPL Digital Gallery provides access to over 550,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.

North American Women's Letters and Diaries
Letters and diaries depicting the personal experiences of hundreds of women. Contains materials from Colonial times to 1950. Allows browsing by place, by year, and by event.

Making of America (University of Michigan)

Making of America (Cornell University)
Digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. Univesity of Michigan and Cornell Univeristy have both contributed to this project.

The Martha Ballard Case Study: A Midwife's Tale
Based on a case of a tragic assassination of character in an 18th century New England town, this interactive site seeks to teach students how historians must piece fragmentray evidence together to reconstruct past events. It has them browse diaries, newspapers, and town records to decide for themselves what happened and with what justification. (description from, a website evaluation tool).

The Valley of the Shadow
Digital archive of primary sources that document the lives of people in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, during the era of the American Civil War. Here you may explore thousands of original documents that allow you to see what life was like during the Civil War for the men and women of Augusta and Franklin.

Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive
This collection of Jefferson materials complement the collection of offical papers at the Library of Congress. It includes letters, architectural drawings, and other materials collected at the University of Virginia.

The Perseus Digital Library
Large collection of electronic text and visual materials focusing on ancient Greece and Rome. Includes classical texts, secondary materials, maps, and archeological information.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook

The Labyrinth: Resources for Medieval Studies
Gateway to information form medieval studies on the web.

Project Wittenberg
Collection of electronic texts from Martin Luther, as well as other early Lutheran writings. Texts in the original language and in translation are available.

World History Sources
Reviews primary resource websites, focusing on those that are appropriate for classroom use.