Primary sources enable the historical researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period. A primary source reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. Here are some examples of primary sources:
- Items that describe events where the author is a participant or observer, such as diaries, letters, memos, journals, speeches, and interviews. Example: Diary of Charles Rumley from St. Louis to Portland, 1862
- Photographs, audio and video recordings, and other electronic records that record an event. Example: Oregon Politics Radio Disc Collection [sound recording], 1938-1958
- Records collected by government agencies such as birth and death records, marriage records, voting tallies, land deeds, and census data. Example: 15th census, population, 1930. Oregon
- Records created by organizations or agencies, such as reports, minutes of meetings, and bylaws. Example: The dawn of British trade to the East Indies as recorded in the Court Minutes of the East India Company, 1599-1603
- Memoirs and autobiographies. Example: Autobiography of Samuel L. Campbell, 1824-1902 : frontiersman and Oregon pioneer : together with his summary of the Whitman Massacre.
- Material published at the time of an event, such as books, newspapers and magazine and journal articles. These are distinguished from secondary sources because they are contemporary. Example: Jones, W. F. D. "An Oregonian Poet Hermit." Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, V. 25, issue 148, April 1895, pp. 75-378.
- Data collected by researchers, such as field notes, results of experiments, and measurements. Example: Climatological data. Oregon.
Image credit: Electoral Vote Tally for the 1860 Presidential Election, 1861 (page 1 of 3) by The U.S. National Archives, via Flickr