Peeking into the Past

Using Primary Sources & Archives in Peace & Conflict Studies

Sarah Elichko
Pam Harris

PEAC 015
09/27/2018

Primary sources & archives

How do you find interesting primary sources?

Rare historical documents + you
(handling materials safely)

I wish I'd known...
(tips from historians + researchers)

Researchers use primary sources because they provide a firsthand account of events or conditions during a particular period in time.

Many documents used as primary sources were recorded contemporaneously by participants or observers.

Primary Sources & Archives

Reflect thinking and understanding at a moment in time

From individual people and families:
- letters, diaries, scrapbooks / photo albums

- collections of "personal papers"

Primary Sources & Archives

Primary Sources & Archives

Organizations create records through the course of doing their work:

   • Notes/minutes taken during meetings

   • Newsletters, annual reports, other publications

   • Photographs taken of speeches or protest marches

Consider also sources from organizations (e.g. colleges, activist groups)

You'll hear these records referred to as the archives of the organization.

Find Primary Sources

Search: TriCo Archives & Manuscripts

Start from Tripod: tripod.swarthmore.edu

• Open the menu (top right corner)

• Select Archives & Manuscripts.
 

         You'll see:

         • At the Libraries  <-- select link

         • Online

Find Primary Sources

TriCo Archives & Manuscripts

Approach 1: Browsing

- Start by looking through subject areas for ideas.

- Filtering results lets you see:

     • Only materials from Friends Historical Library

     • Only materials from Swarthmore Peace Collection

Each result describes a collection of documents.

• View a full description + list:  Print icon --> opens a PDF

Find Primary Sources

TriCo Archives & Manuscripts

Approach 2: Searching

- Include synonyms in your search:

         quaker* OR "society of friends"
 

- Account for word endings:

         Search for quaker* --> 400+ more results than quaker

Key takeaway: search thoughtfully + ask for help

Can't find what you're looking for?


Here are some strategies for troubleshooting historical research:

What words might have been used to describe your topic at this time + place?

If searching by subject/issue isn't working well, look for the names of relevant organizations or individuals. (secondary sources can be helpful)

Try another research tool: TriCo Images & Manuscripts (digitized sources)

Rare historical documents + you
(handling materials safely)

What to expect:

• 1st visit: You'll register as a researcher.

• After that: sign in whenever you visit.

Table service:
• You'll ask the archivist or other staff for

  documents, rather than getting them  

  yourself.

• This is called paging.

Handling rare & historical materials safely

Typically, it's OK to use:

- Pencil and notebook

- Phone (for photos)

- Laptop

But while using rare materials, no:

- Food or drinks (including water bottles)

- Backpacks (can usually store)

- Pens or highlighters

  • Keep papers flat  (e.g. letters)
     
  • You may be given book supports or gloves (to protect photographs).
  • Order matters:
    • You'll probably be given a bookmark. Use it to note your place in a folder.
    • Return each document to its place as soon as you're done with it.

Handling rare & historical materials safely

I wish I'd known...

Historical research tips

Talk to your archivist

• Archives staff know their collections well. They're an invaluable resource for any researcher. Let them know what you're interested in - you may get suggestions you'd never have found otherwise.

• On a practical note: Let archives staff know that you're planning to visit. (Some documents may be kept off-site and take a few days to request.)

Booth Tarkington to George Ade, 8 May 1924, Box 10, Folder 5, George Ade Papers 1878-2007, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

When citing your sources,
you'll need to know where you found them:

Booth Tarkington to George Ade, 8 May 1924, Box 10, Folder 5, George Ade Papers 1878-2007, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Booth Tarkington to George Ade, 8 May 1924, Box 10, Folder 5, George Ade Papers 1878-2007, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Recap: Archives & Primary Sources
 

• Primary source documents offer you a unique perspective on the past.

• Tripod Archives & Manuscripts lets you explore what's available at Swarthmore.

• Because you'll be working with rare or one-of-a-kind materials, you'll be asked to handle these sources carefully.

• Archivists and library staff can help you succeed: reach out, talk with us about your project, and ask questions.

PEAC 015: Archives & Primary Sources

By Swarthmore Reference

PEAC 015: Archives & Primary Sources

  • 86
Loading comments...

More from Swarthmore Reference