What is a primary source?

Primary sources are original historical documents. These sources could take the form of:

  • medieval manuscripts 
  • diaries
  • political papers
  • photographs
  • scrapbooks
  • university records
  • unpublished archival collections
  • historical published works

Why use them in your class?

We believe that students benefit from hands-on, experiential learning. Interacting with historical materials provide an opportunity for students to directly connect with the past. Analyzing primary source materials encourage students to ask questions and critically evaluate historical beliefs.

How can I use primary sources?

The primary source materials held by Lehigh Libraries Special Collections lend themselves to numerous learning activities:

  • Scavenger hunt style search for specific pages, passages, illustrations, or references.
  • Art and design projects based on historical imagery, illustrations, or book-binding techniques.
  • Comparisons of historic publications with equivalent modern materials. 

How do I schedule a class that uses primary sources?

  1. Get in touch with Special Collections (610-758-4506 or inspc@lehigh.edu) and let us know your class availability (Schedule class visit)

  2. Identify primary source materials relevant for your class (ASA Catalog or Archives Research Portal)

  3. View material in person (Schedule an appointment)

  4. Build an assignment using the primary source materials

  5. Host a class in the historic Special Collections Research and Instruction Room in Linderman Library

  6. Arrange follow-up visits by students to conduct research using primary source materials