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American Historical Review Digital Primary Sources

A list from the American Historical Review of open access databases containing digitized primary sources for historical research.

List

Helen Keller Archive (American Foundation for the Blind)
“The Helen Keller Archive at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is the world’s largest repository of materials about and by Helen Keller. Materials include correspondence, speeches, press clippings, scrapbooks, photographs, photograph albums, architectural drawings, audio recordings, audio-visual materials and artifacts. The collection contains detailed biographical information about Helen Keller (1880-1968), as well as a fascinating record of over 80 years of social and political change worldwide. Keller was a feminist, a suffragist, a social activist, and a pacifist, as well as a prolific writer and published author.”
Regions: United States; Global
Dates: 1859-2018

Oral History Center of the Bancroft Library (University of California, Berkeley)
“OHC has carried out interviews in a variety of major subject areas, which include: politics and government; law and jurisprudence; arts and letters; business and labor; social and community history; University of California history; natural resources and the environment; and science, medicine, and technology .. . OHC has conducted over 4,000 oral histories, which totals tens of thousands of interview hours. Nearly every interview that has been transcribed is available for the public to read on the OHC website.”
Regions: United States; California
Dates: 1860-present

Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project (Stanford University)
“Between 1864 and 1869, thousands of Chinese migrants toiled at a grueling pace and in perilous working conditions to help construct America’s first Transcontinental Railroad. The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project seeks to give a voice to the Chinese migrants whose labor on the Transcontinental Railroad helped to shape the physical and social landscape of the American West. The Project coordinates research in North America and Asia in order to publish new findings in print and digital formats, support new and scholarly informed school curriculum, and participate in conferences and public events.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1864-1869

Western History Digital Photograph Collection (Denver Public Library)
Contains almost ninety thousand digitally preserved photographs from the history of the American West. The library’s digitized collections also include a selection of maps, building plans, and art. Sortable by date, creator, and other criteria.
Regions: United States; American West
Dates: 1869-1969

Carlisle Indian School Digital Archives (Dickinson College)
The archive seeks to bring together, in digital format, a variety of documents and resources relating to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Sources include student files, images, publications, lists, and rosters.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1876-1917

American Indian Digital History Project (American Indian Digital History Project; the University of Kansas; the University of Nebraska at Omaha)
“The American Indian Digital History Project is a Digital History Cooperative founded to recover and preserve rare Indigenous newspapers, photographs, and archival materials from all across Native North America. The project seeks to increase access to historical Tribal documents in order to encourage accurate and responsible American Indian research. Furthermore, the project will be seeking partnerships with Tribal governments and archives to create a digital repository for local Tribes.”
Regions: North America
Dates: 1881-1980

County Trial Transcripts of New York County Collection (1883-1927) (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)
“The Lloyd Sealy Library’s The Trial Transcripts of the County of New York 1883--1927 collection includes the verbatim typewritten proceedings of 3,326 court cases, held in various courts of New York County, which included Manhattan and The Bronx until 1914 . . . These transcripts contain primary material important not only in the study of the interaction between persons accused of crimes and the criminal justice system but in the study of immigration patterns and urban development during this period.” A third of the transcripts are now available online as digitized images.
Regions: New York City
Dates: 1883-1927

Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project (University of Nebraska-Lincoln; the Genoa U.S. Indian School Foundation; Community Advisors from the Omaha, Pawnee, Ponca, Santee Sioux, and Winnebago tribes of Nebraska; and descendants of those who attended Genoa)
“The Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project is a space for telling the stories of the American Indian children who attended Genoa, the stories of their communities, and the stories of their descendants. To help in telling these stories, we are first digitizing government records of Genoa from various federal and state archives, materials which are often difficult to locate and access. We hope that returning these records to American Indian families and tribes may be an act of archival reconciliation—of bringing history home. Over the longer term, we aim to support descendant communities in telling more complete stories of Genoa and to promote awareness and truth-seeking about the boarding schools among all Americans.”
Regions: Nebraska
Dates: 1886-1938

Black Film Archive (Maya S. Cade)
Curated by Maya Cade, “Black Film Archive celebrates the rich, abundant history of Black cinema. We are an evolving archive dedicated to making historically and culturally significant films made from 1915 to 1979 about Black people accessible through a streaming guide with cultural context.”
Regions: United States; Global
Dates: 1898-1989

Forest History Society Photograph Collection (Forest History Society)
“The Forest History Society’s Alvin J. Huss Archives maintains a rich collection of over 30,000 photos, slides, negatives, plates, and films documenting the history of human interaction with the environment. Indexed by subject, the main collection covers a wide array of topics while focusing on the history of forests, the forest products industry, the U.S. Forest Service, and lumbering and sawmilling practices. The majority of the collection consists of black-and-white prints taken in the United States from the 1920s to the 1960s.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1900-1984

South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) (SAADA)
“SAADA creates a more inclusive society by giving voice to South Asian Americans through documenting, preserving, and sharing stories that represent their unique and diverse experiences.” The archive promotes “American and world histories that fully acknowledge the importance of immigrants and ethnic communities in the past, strengthen such communities in the present, and inspire discussion about their role in the future.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1900-present

Discovering Marian Anderson (University of Pennsylvania Libraries)
This collection includes Marian Anderson’s “private sound recordings; audio interviews (and transcripts); recital programs; diaries and notebooks; and scrapbooks. Now digitized, these materials will enable researchers to explore the geographical extent of her musical career; study her repertoire; gain a deeper understanding of the blind prejudice she endured; and, despite her trials, marvel at her courage, reception and fame as she emerged as the Artist on the world stage during the Twentieth century.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1900-1993

Newspaper Navigator (Library of Congress; LC Labs)
“This application enables you to search and explore historic newspaper photographs. You can search by keyword over the photos’ captions (extracted from the OCR of each newspaper page), as well as search by visual similarity. The visual similarity search capability retrieves relevant photos by empowering you to train a machine learning algorithm by selecting photos that you are interested in. The application contains 1.56 million photos from the Newspaper Navigator dataset, consisting of all extracted photos in the dataset published between 1900 and 1963 with confidence scores above 90%. Advertisements are considered a separate category in the Newspaper Navigator dataset, but you may still find some advertisements using this application.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1900-1963

Goin' North (West Chester University)
Designed by students at West Chester University, this project recounts the experiences of African Americans who came to Philadelphia as part of the Great Migration of the early twentieth century. Digitized oral history interviews originally recorded in the 1980s are accessible on the site.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1900s-1970s

Prelinger Archives (Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division)
Founded "to collect, preserve, and facilitate access to films of historic significance," it holds "approximately 11,000 digitized and videotape titles (all originally derived from film) and a large collection of home movies, amateur and industrial films."
Regions: United States
Dates: 1903-2016

Natives of Montana Archival Project (University of Montana)
From 2009 to 2012, students in the Native American Studies Department at the University of Montana photographed and made available digital images of files from Record Group 75, Bureau of Indian Affairs, located at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The extensive files include "letters received, copies of letters sent, reports, memoranda, minutes, petitions, leases, contracts, affidavits, applications, certificates, licenses, permits, bonds, wills, other legal documents, tables, circulars, accounting records, clippings, photographs, diagrams, and blueprints."
Regions: United States
Dates: 1907-1939

The Bisbee Deportation of 1917 (University of Arizona)
“This site is a research-based collection of primary and secondary sources for the study of the deportation of over 1,000 striking miners from Bisbee on 12 July, 1917. Materials include I.W.W. publications, personal recollections, newspaper articles, court records, government reports, correspondence, and journal articles.”
Regions: United States; Arizona
Dates: 1912-1997

Women Veterans Historical Project (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)
“The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project (WVHP), established at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) in 1998, documents the contributions of women in the military and related service organizations since World War I. The WVHP includes a wide range of source material including photographs, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, oral histories, military patches and insignia, uniforms, and posters, as well as published works.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1918-present

Influenza Encyclopedia (University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine; Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library)
“An estimated 650,000 Americans lost their lives to the infamous and tragic 1918–1919 influenza epidemic, a small but significant fraction of the approximately 50 million deaths the disease caused worldwide. Countless more were left without parents, children, friends, and loved ones. Communities across the country did what they could to stem the rising tide of illness and death, closing their schools, churches, theaters, shops and saloons. Doctors, nurses, and volunteers gave their time—and, occasionally, their lives—to care for the ill. These pages contain the stories of the places, the people, and the organizations that battled the American influenza epidemic of 1918–1919.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1918-1919

Ku Klux Klan Membership Ledgers: History Colorado (History Colorado)
“History Colorado holds two Ku Klux Klan membership books for the Greater Denver area and beyond. The information inside them, which was collected for administrative purposes around 1924 through 1926, dates from the peak of the Klan's influence in Colorado. Together they have nearly 30,000 entries across more than 1,300 pages that record the names and other personal details, such as home and business addresses, of people affiliated with the KKK in metropolitan Denver and other areas. While the first 69 entries appear to be missing, the ledgers otherwise appear to be completely intact . . . In a spirit of more actively naming and confronting systems of inequality, History Colorado aims to make these items available as freely and widely as possible.”
Regions: Denver, Colorado
Dates: 1924-1926

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project (Stanford University; the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia; and the King Estate)
Digitized scans of correspondence, sermons, speeches, notes, diary entries, arrest reports, jail ledgers, and other documents authored by or pertaining to Martin Luther King Jr.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1929-1968

What America Ate (Michigan State University)
“What America Ate [is] an interactive website and online archive about food in the Great Depression, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.” The 1930s America Eats Project was created by the U.S. government as way to document American cuisine during the Great Depression, and “today, for the first time, America Eats sources that had been scattered across the country are digitized and fully searchable, along with almost two hundred local community cookbooks and thousands of food advertising materials from the 1930s.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1929-1942

Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project (George Washington University)
"ERPP online editions document ER’s prolific career as a journalist and public speaker."
Regions: United States
Dates: 1930-1969

Maurice Jackson Pamphlet Collection (Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture)
Part of the digital projects by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, “the pamphlets in this collection cover a variety of topics and include a biography of Angela Davis, writings by Paul Robeson, and prints discussing labor unions, the Black Power movement, and Communist, Socialist and Nationalist politics.” Users can contribute to the site by helping to transcribe “pamphlets related to African Americans and their intersections with the Communist Party and radical left groups.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1931-1979

Photogrammar (Yale University)
This expansive collection of photographs by the U.S. Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) provides iconic images from around the U.S. during the Great Depression and World War II (1935–1945). Visitors can navigate the collection with interactive maps and use data visualizations and other tools to search and organize the photographs by categories like geography, era, subject, and even photo composition.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1935-1944

The Negro Motorist Green Book (New York Public Library)
Digitized scans of 22 issues of the Green Book, published to aid African Americans in avoiding racial discrimination while traveling throughout the U.S.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1936-1967

San Francisio Bay Area Television Archive (San Francisco State University)
"The TV Archive preserves 6000 hours of newsfilm, documentaries and other TV footage produced in the Bay Area and Northern California from the Twentieth Century."
Regions: United States
Dates: 1939-2007

Historic Government Publications from World War II (Southern Methodist University)
Scans of 343 printed U.S. government pamphlets, reports, and propaganda materials. Covers women’s issues, home-front race relations, conservation and rationing, soldiers’ guides to other countries, and more.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1940-1945

The Secret White House Tapes (Miller Center, University of Virginia)
“Between 1940 and 1973, six consecutive American presidents secretly taped thousands of their meeting and telephone conversations. These exchanges took place in the White House and in the Executive Office Building, at Camp David and at the LBJ Ranch, and during travel. From Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose infrequent recordings yielded only 8 hours of taped material, to Richard M. Nixon, whose voiceactivated system captured 3,400 hours of discussion, the White House tapes constitute a unique and irreplaceable source for the study of U.S. history and American government.” The site provides access to audio files and transcripts.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1940-1973

American Archive of Public Broadcasting (Library of Congress; GBH Archives)
“The Library of Congress and WGBH in Boston have embarked on a project to preserve for posterity the most significant public television and radio programs of the past 60 years: The American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The American people have made a huge investment in public radio and television over many decades, calculated at more than $10 billion. The American Archive will ensure that this rich source for American political, social, and cultural history and creativity will be saved and made available once again to future generations.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1940s-present

Japanese-American Internment Camp Newspapers, 1942-1946 (Library of Congress)
“Produced by the Japanese-Americans interned at assembly centers and relocation centers around the country during World War II, these newspapers provide a unique look into the daily lives of the people who were held in these camps. They include articles written in English and Japanese, typed, handwritten and drawn. They advertise community events, provide logistical information about the camps and relocation, report on news from the community, and include editorials.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1942-1946

Cultural Equity Sound Recordings Catalogue (Association of Cultural Equality)
“The Sound Recordings catalog comprises over 17,400 digital audio files, beginning with [Alan] Lomax’s first recordings onto (newly invented) tape in 1946 and tracing his career into the 1990s. In addition to a wide spectrum of musical performances from around the world, it includes stories, jokes, sermons, personal narratives, interviews conducted by Lomax and his associates, and unique ambient artifacts captured in transit from radio broadcasts, sometimes inadvertently, when Alan left the tape machine running.”
Regions: United States; Global
Dates: 1944-1986

Bay Area Television Archive (Bay Area Television Archive; San Francisco State University)
“Established in 1981, the TV Archive preserves 6000 hours of newsfilm, documentaries and other TV footage produced in the Bay Area and Northern California from the Twentieth Century. [The archive is] a part of the J. Paul Leonard Library’s Department of Special Collections and oversee material owned by local TV stations KPIX-TV, KRON-TV, KQED and KTVU.”
Regions: California
Dates: 1948-2003

Independent Voices (Reveal Digital; JSTOR)
“Independent Voices is an open access digital collection of alternative press newspapers, magazines and journals, drawn from the special collections of participating libraries. These periodicals were produced by feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Hispanics, LGBT activists, the extreme right-wing press and alternative literary magazines during the latter half of the 20th century.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1951-2016

March on Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
This project includes photographs, news film footage, text documents, and oral history interviews, all documenting the efforts of activists and their opponents in the struggle over civil rights issues in 1960s Milwaukee.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1954-1968

The Kent State Shootings: Digital Archive (Kent State University)
This digital archive contains “audio recordings, photographs, artworks, and thousands of documents.” It focuses on audiovisual media from the shootings, also allowing visitors to search for media by geographical location, by sub-collection (e.g., photographs, audio, film, art, papers), by subject area, and by title.
Regions: United States; Ohio
Dates: 1955-present

Freedom Archives (Freedom Archives)
“The Freedom Archives contains over 12,000 hours of audio and video recordings which date from the late-1960s to the mid-90s and chronicle the progressive history of the Bay Area, the United States, and international movements . . . [the] collection includes weekly news, poetry, music programs; in-depth interviews and reports on social and cultural issues; numerous voices from behind prison walls; diverse activists; and pamphlets, journals and other materials from many radical organizations and movements.”
Regions: United States; California
Dates: 1955-2015

Emmitt Till Project (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture)
“The Emmett Till Project (ETP) is a digital platform commemorating the legacy of Emmett Louis Till . . . . Through this project, we aim to create an interdisciplinary approach to explore Till’s murder, case, and legacy through podcasts, literature, digital archival materials, film and programming. Curatorially, we want to map and amplify the circulation of Till’s story within our collective memory. This is achieved through generating original content, alongside strengthening public access to the wide-range of related research and creative materials for all to easily engage and explore.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1955, 2006-present

Wearing Gay History (Various repositories)
Wearing Gay History is "home to the digitized t-shirt collections of numerous lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender archives across the United States ... This project uncovers LGBT history outside the urban queer capitals of San Francisco and New York and in particular highlights the rich queer histories of the American Midwest and South."
Regions: North America
Dates: 1960-present

"A Shaky Truce": Starkville Civil Rights Struggles, 1960-1980 (Mississippi State University)
“This digital oral and public history project is an ongoing cooperative effort between faculty and students at Mississippi State University History Department and Libraries. The site narrates the unique history of Starkville, Mississippi’s civil rights struggles with particular emphasis on the local fight for school desegregation ... Through the use of digitized archival documents and oral history interviews, ‘A Shaky Truce’ highlights Starkville’s story and the voices of its participants in order to position this town and its people as critical reflections of this national movement.”
Regions: United States; Mississippi
Dates: 1960-1980

Domestic Diversity and Other Subversive Activities: Liberator Magazines (Lowell P. Beveridge, Jr.)
This primary source collection contains digitized copies of Liberator magazine, offering issues from March 1961 to October 1965, when Lowell P. Beveridge Jr. was the magazine’s editor. Visitors can browse individual issues, download the full collection, or browse an index of individual article titles and authors.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1961-1965

Rise Up! (Rise Up Collective)
“The Rise Up! project aims to create a digital archive of original publications, documents, flyers, posters, and many other materials representing feminist activism from the 1970s to 1990s. Our goal is to help preserve the diversity, vibrancy and radical legacy of this era and to make it accessible online to new generations of activists, students, and researchers.”
Regions: Canada
Dates: 1966-1999

Oral History Digital Collection (Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage at the University of Southern Mississippi)
Approximately 750 interview transcripts currently focused on the civil rights movement in Mississippi.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1967-2012

The Health Policy Advisory Center (HEALTH/PAC)
Full-text searchable digitized files of the Health/PAC Bulletin.
Regions: United States
Dates: 1968-1994

Cornell Hip Hop Collection (Cornell University)
“The mission of the Cornell Hip Hop Collection (CHHC) is to collect and make accessible the historical artifacts of Hip Hop culture and to ensure their preservation for future generations . . . the CHHC preserves more than 250,000 items across dozens of archives documenting the origins of Hip Hop culture and its spread around the globe. The collections include thousands of sound and video recordings, hundreds of party and event flyers, artwork, photographs, books, magazines, and advertising, along with the archives of Hip Hop’s photographers, filmmakers, dancers, MC’s, DJ’s, artists, journalists, producers and publicists, and independent labels, managers and agencies.”
Regions: United States
Dates: 1968-1990

Washington Prison History Project (University of Washington Libraries)
“The Washington Prison History Project archive aims to provide researchers, policy-makers, students, and others with artifacts and documentation of the history and ongoing reality of mass incarceration in Washington state and the broader Northwest. It provides evidence of the robust civil society that exists within the state’s prisons and detention centers, as well as the complex linkages between prisoner organizing and the diverse communities that incarcerated people come from, return to, or are otherwise connected with. The archive gathers documents of and testimonials by incarcerated people about issues ranging from criminal justice and the urban condition to popular culture and the natural world.”
Regions: United States; Washington
Dates: 1975-2018