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What Are Primary Resources?

People use original, first-hand accounts as building blocks to create stories from the past. These accounts are called primary sources, because they are the first evidence of something happening, or being thought or said.

Primary sources are created at the time of an event, or very soon after something has happened. These sources are often rare or one-of-a-kind. However, some primary sources can also exist in many copies, if they were popular and widely available at the time that they were created.

All of the following can be primary sources:

  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Photographs
  • Art
  • Maps
  • Video and film
  • Sound recordings
  • Interviews
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Published first-hand accounts, or stories

From Library and Archives Canada

For more help understanding primary and secondary sources, go to Library and Archives Canada's Defining Primary and Secondary Sources page.

Primary Resource Databases

The following links are great resources for those of you who want to examine primary sources. These sites touch on a variety of topics, including media events, women's studies, and world history.