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Historical primary sources online: Theme-based digital archives

Multipart guide to VT Libraries' many digital archives, whether based on types of sources or thematic collections.

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

Profile Photo
Bruce Pencek
Newman Library (MC 0434)
Office #3050
560 Drillfield Dr
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Email is the best way to contact me with questions or appointment requests.

Office hours (walk-in and/or Zoom): T-W 1-3:00 pm, Th 2-4:00 pm (Eastern time), and by appointment.

(540) 231-2140

Collections focused on themes and places

This section is divided into subsections on families & oral histories ; Law & policy ; Colonization, globalization & wars ; Science & technology ; Gender, sexuality & family Race, ethnicity & inequalities ; Print, visual & aural culture; Advertising & commerce ;and Place-based collections.

Databases are listed only once even though they may fit under many headings. Consider keyword-searching (<ctrl>-F) within this page to locate the resources most relevant to your needs.

Families, oral history

Law, government, policy

Colonization, globalization, international relations, wars

Science, technology, medicine

Gender, sexuality, and family

Race, ethnicity, and inequalities

Print, visual, and aural culture

Advertising, commerce

Place-centered collections

Other global regions

See also the "Colonization, globalization, international relations" section.