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Historical primary sources online: Theme-based digital archives

The Virginia Tech Libraries have acquired many digital archives, ranging from historical news media to thematic collections of documents

Primary source collections vary a lot

The creators of digital collections don't follow many common rules about what they will include.  Like conventional archivists, they must work within the limits of what sources are actually available, even though they -- and you -- may really want sources to fall into neat geographical or chronological packages.  This page reflects the rough distinctions in use between archival collections that try to capture whole historical eras and those that organize sources by format, place, or theme.  Use them as broad starting points.  Then use the filters built into each database to locate sources that best fit your needs.

Cross-search within major providers' collections

All-at-once searching gives a good idea of what your search terms my pull up, but at the cost of giving you too much information to process at a sitting.  Think of these tools as aids of planning where, how -- and when -- you'll search within each vendor's many  offerings.

Collections focused on periods

Need physical archives?

College Librarian for Social Sciences & History

Bruce  Pencek's picture
Bruce Pencek
Newman Library (MC 0434)
Office #3050
560 Drillfield Dr
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Zoom office hours (pandemic period):
T, W, Th 1-3:00 pm, Eastern time
and by appointment
- -
Email is the best way to contact me at other times.
(540) 231-2140

Collections focused on themes and places

This section is divided into subsections on families & oral histories ; Law, government & globalization, Gender & sexuality; Visual culture; and Place-based collections.

Families, oral history

Law, government, policy

Colonization, globalization, international relations

Science, technology, medicine

Gender, sexuality

Race, ethnicity

Print and visual culture

Advertising, commerce

Place-based collections

North America
Other global regions

Sources from within these regions.  See also the "Colonization, globalization, international relations" section for perspectives from outside.