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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History Resources

A guide to the key library sources for historical research.

General Resources

In addition to primary source collections for particular geographic areas or time periods, we have a number of services available to help locate primary sources. 

Published Primary Sources

You can find published primary sources by using library catalogs, research guides, and published bibliographies. You can also look at secondary literature on your topic to ascertain what sources other scholars have used in their research.

To find published primary sources in library catalogs, try these strategies:

-Search by date of publication (to find sources that were published during the time period you're researching --you can also use this strategy in full-text digital collections of newspapers and other periodical publications, such as Proquest Historical Newspapers)

-Use the library catalog's advanced search option, and include one or more of these Library of Congress subject headings in your search:

  • correspondence

  • sources

  • diaries

  • personal narratives

  • interviews

  • speeches

  • documents

  • archives

  • early works to 1800


Original/Archival Primary Sources

You can find unpublished primary sources held by archives and museums using ArchiveGrid (a database of information about archival collections), or using the "archival material" format in WorldCat. Microfilm facsimiles of primary source materials are also included in WorldCat and other library catalogs. 

Microform Resources

To locate microform resources in the library you can use the library catalog. If a resource is on microform, there will be a prefix before the call number, as seen below: 

An item's page will also tell you its location. Many of the library's microform holdings are located in the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper library, but they can also be found in the Main Stacks and in the off-site storage facility. Many microform collections have printed guides that should also be visible from the catalog, which can help you locate specific reels of film. It also pays to keep in mind that microform collections are often made up of large collections of documents covering a variety of topics, so when searching the catalog for collections it helps to keep your search terms general. For example, if you are looking for civil rights activism in a particular American city, you may want to try searching for "African Americans AND Civil Rights" rather than for the city name, as collections may not be cataloged with a heading for the name of the city. Do not hesitate to contact someone from the HPNL, as we would be happy to assist you in tracking down materials.