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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 200D: Film and Historical Narrative

A course guide.

What are Reference Sources?

Libraries collect and preserve the graphic records of human experience.1 Not every experience is documented, and not every documented experience is collected and preserved. How, then, can you know what part of the historical record remains for you to study? Reference sources are your map to the graphic records of human experience.

Even if every human experience hasn't been documented, and every document hasn't been preserved, there remains a plethora of sources available for the historian to study. Here at the University of Illinois Library, you have access to over 14 million printed books, 9 million microforms, 120,000 periodicals, 148,000 sound recordings, 1 million audiovisual resources, 280,000 e-books, 29,000 cubic feet of archival records, 3 terabytes of electronic records, and 650,000 maps—that's over 24 million potential primary sources for your research. Reference sources are your map to the Library's collections.

Half of one aisle at the University Library's remote storage facility on Oak Street.

Use reference sources for factual information like the date the Defense of Marriage Act  was signed into law, or where in the United States Statutes at Large to find it. You can also use them to find more complex information, like marriage law in Islam. They often include bibliographies, making them profitable places to begin a research project.


Separate guides to national cinema are available in the Literature and Language Library reference section. Here are three examples:

Bibliographies, Filmographies, and Catalogs

In addition to the bibliographies listed above, there are bibliographies on individual directors scattered throughout the 016.79143 A-Z call number range. Because so much of the collection is now stored offsite, the only way to browse these is through the Library's "Classic Catalog":

Web Resources

Internet Movie Database.

American Film Institute.

British Film Institute and BFI National Library.

“Making Sense of Films.” By Tom Gunning. (History Matters)

“Modern History in the Movies.” From the Modern History Sourcebook.

Internet Archive: Movie Archive.


1. Jesse H. Shera, The Foundations of Education for Librarianship (New York: Becker and Hayes, 1972): 193.