History Homework

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History Homework Help

By Libby Feil

"Help! I'm working on a history project and I can't find primary sources!" Never fear, the Library is here! If you are a student or the parent of a student, you can relate to this problem. During the school year we see many students in the Library who are working on history projects and need to find primary sources. Don't despair! There are plenty of places to look.

The newspaper is a good first stop. We have the South Bend Tribune on microfilm going all the way back to May of 1873, and all the way forward until the present. Stop into the Local History & Genealogy Department on the second floor of Main Library and ask for help in finding information on your topic. We also have the New York Times on microfilm all the way back to 1851, which is a great source of national and international news. The Magazines, Newspapers, Fiction Department also has indexes to the Times, so you can search for your research topic and go directly to the right issue.

What if you can't make it downtown? You can go to your nearest computer, or right to your home computer if you have one, and look at the Chicago Tribune online. Just go to our Research Resources page and look at the Newspaper section. We have the historical Chicago Tribune from about 1850 to 1985, and also the more current Chicago Tribune from 1985 to this month. We also have the New York Times available online from 1980 through the present, many Indiana newspapers from this same time period, and the South Bend Tribune from about 1995 to the present. To use these databases from home, you just need a valid St. Joseph County Library card.

When I worked as a history instructor, I also relied on several government and university web sites that are great sources of primary documents. They are reputable, authoritative web sites. They serve up actual photographs, letters, interviews, documents, and more, so you can look at and print out good quality copies of the original items.

The biggest site is the Library of Congress's American Memory project. You can find old advertisements, maps, photographs, sheet music, letters, diaries, and all manner of government documents. It includes material on the Revolutionary War, slavery, the Civil War, the huge immigration to American in the late 1800s and early 1900s, World War II, women's suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, and so much more. There is a search box you can use to search for a name, place, topic, or even a date!

The National Archives also provides a wealth of history materials. They have three major sites that are of interest to students, parents, and teachers. First, they have a site that hosts their Online Exhibits. You can view, online, digital copies of the charters of freedom (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights), documents about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, photographs and digital copies of artwork from the New Deal, and a whole lot more. Their America's Historical Documents site showcases some famous and unusual letters, patents, court cases, and more. The Digital Classroom section has information and help for students--as well as lesson plans and activity ideas for teachers.

Two other sites have primary resources from the Civil War period. Documenting the American South and Valley of the Shadow both showcase books, diaries, letters, illustrations, other documents--even songs--from this time period. Documenting the American South can be searched by date, and Valley of the Shadow is arranged by time period and then by topic.

Back to the Local History page

Last updated by: Libby Feil, October 10, 2006

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