To learn about primary sources and how to use them in research, please see the Special Collections and Archives Tutorials. To view or learn about primary sources and other historical materials in our Special Collections and Archives, please use the University Library Finding Aid Database. For information on how to view these materials in person, see our Special Collections and Archives website.
For archives held at other California institutions, please search the Online Archive of California (OAC).
See Citing Archival Materials guide for creating citations for primary and other historical sources.
Numerous archives, libraries, museums, and other repositories around the United States and world include archival materials in their collections which are open to visiting researchers. Archival materials are described as collections, and primarily consist of unpublished records created by a person, family, or organization in the conduct of their affairs, kept because of their ongoing value. Archival collections are usually accessed via finding aids, invetories, registers, or other descriptive tools that are similar to the Table of Contents in a book.
If you try the three methods described below and still can't find what you're looking for, email us for assistance.
The Online Archive of California (OAC) is a searchable database that includes finding aids for archival and primary source collections at more than 200 libraries, special collections, archives, historical societies, and museums in California, including Special Collections & Archives at CSUN.
After searching, you can limit your search results by holding institution, so you can see everything on your topic at other repositories in Los Angeles (UCLA, Occidental, Loyola Marymount, etc.) that have contributed finding aids to the OAC.
For online (digitized) archival materials held at institutions in California, search Calisphere. For those held at institutions across the United States, search the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).
Online resources for African American History:
Digital Collections Databases:
Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event or time in history that has yet to be interpreted by another person.
Examples of primary sources include:
Secondary sources are scholarly monographs or articles that are based on primary source data and analyze, critique, report, summarize, interpret, or restructure that data. They can also be based on a reading of other secondary sources or a combination of primary source data and secondary sources.
Examples of secondary sources include:
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