Resources for Students

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are items created during or after an event or specific time period by someone who was there - a participant or observer. These can include personal items (manuscript materials) such as letters, diaries, journals, scrapbooks, photographs, and artifacts, as well as records from an institution (archives) such as financial ledgers, correspondence, minutes, and reports. Items like maps, newspapers, magazines, and music can also be primary sources.

For more information on primary source research -- including how to find, use, and cite them see the CSUDH Research Guide page on Primary Sources

Where can I find "primary sources"?


The Gerth Archives & Special Collections Department is home to thousands of primary source documents, photographs, audio and visual materials, and physical items that students can use in their research. Below are links to resources for finding materials at CSUDH.

Gerth Archives & Special Collections staff can also answer questions about primary source research by email or phone (310-243-3895).

Archival Collections at CSUDH 

CSU system archives at CSUDH

Digital Image and Document Collections

Newspaper Databases

Search CSUDH's subscription databases for historical newspapers from Los Angeles and around the world.

America History and Life

A primary bibliographic database containing citations to articles regarding historical coverage of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present.


At Other Institutions

Most public and many private institutions like University Libraries, museums, and historical societies allow access to their materials to the general public for research. The resources below can be used to find primary sources around Los Angeles and California. 

LA as Subject Directory
L.A. as Subject is a research alliance dedicated to preserving and improving access to the archival material of Los Angeles history. Much of the city’s history is preserved in libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions. Other valuable and unique collections – those that reveal the stories of neighborhoods, families, and influential Angelenos – are scattered across Southern California, curated by smaller institutions and individual enthusiasts. With an online directory of more than 230 separate collections, L.A. as Subject ensures that researchers know what materials are available, where they are located, and how to access them.

Online Archive of California (OAC) 
The OAC is a database of finding aids (guides to collections of primary sources) from institutions throughout California, including CSUDH, UCLA, USC, the Getty Research Institute, and the Huntington Library.