primary sources at yale
top left image Tools for Discovery

Primary sources can be a challenge to identify. No one tool will find everything. It may save you time and effort to talk with one of the Yale collections specialists. Fill out the research assistance form if you are not sure how to proceed.
Orbis

What does it search?

Printed or published texts
>Books and pamphlets
>Serials (newspapers, periodicals, magazines)
>Government documents
Manuscript and Archival Material
Maps
Music / Sound recordings
Oral History
Visual Materials
Dissertations
Electronic resources
Microfilm collections

Search for primary source books and pamphlets in Orbis:

The following subheadings are often found in the subject headings of records for published primary sources:

> sources
> diaries
> correspondence
> interviews
> personal narratives
> pamphlets
e.g.,
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Sources

This means that you can use these terms as part of a keyword search in order to identify primary sources, e.g.,

Search for primary source newspapers, periodicals, and magazines in Orbis

Use the “Journal/Newspaper/Magazine Title” search when you know the exact title of the journal or newspaper you need. Check the Orbis record to see if an electronic version is available:

To find out whether a particular organization published a periodical during the time period of interest to you, try a Keyword search for the name of the organization and the genre term “periodicals”, e.g.:

Search for government documents in Orbis:

A keyword search that includes one or more words from the authoring government agency's name can be an effective way to search for government documents in Orbis. For example:

Note that many government documents published before the late twentieth-century are not cataloged in Orbis, but may be listed in other online or print indexes. For assistance, contact the Government Documents & Information Center.

Search for manuscript and archival material in Orbis:

You can search for manuscript and archival collections in Orbis by setting limits to your search. Click on the “More Limits” button on the Orbis search screen, highlight “Archives and Manuscripts” from “Item Type” and then do a Keyword search. For more help on limiting searches, see the Orbis help page.

The Orbis record for a manuscript collection provides a brief summary of the content and extent of the collection. Click on “Long View” in the Orbis record to see more detailed information about the collection. The Orbis record also usually directs you to a “finding aid” – a document that provides more detailed information about the collection. Many of the finding aids for manuscript and archival collections at Yale are now available in fulltext on the web, through the Yale University Library Finding Aid Database; some finding aids are available only in paper format at the repository.

Search for maps in Orbis:

You can search for manuscript and archival collections in Orbis by setting limits to your search. Click on the “More Limits” button on the Orbis search screen, highlight “Archives and Manuscripts” from “Item Type” and then do a Keyword search. For more help on limiting searches, see the Orbis help page.

The Orbis record for a manuscript collection provides a brief summary of the content and extent of the collection. Click on “Long View” in the Orbis record to see more detailed information about the collection. The Orbis record also usually directs you to a “finding aid” – a document that provides more detailed information about the collection. Many of the finding aids for manuscript and archival collections at Yale are now available in fulltext on the web, through the Yale University Library Finding Aid Database; some finding aids are available only in paper format at the repository.

Search for oral history collections in Orbis:

Search for oral histories in Orbis by combining the phrase “oral history” with other terms in a Keyword search:

Search for music and sound recordings in Orbis:

Search for music and sound recordings in Orbis by setting limits to your search. Click on the “More Limits” button on the Orbis search screen, highlight the appropriate “Item Type.” Click on “Set Limits” and then do a Keyword search.

Search for visual materials in Orbis:

Search for visual material in Orbis by setting limits to your search. Click on the “More Limits” button on the Orbis search screen and highlight “Visual Materials" or “Projected Medium” from “Item Type.” Click on “Set Limits” and then do a Keyword search.

Search for dissertations in Orbis:

(NB: Also use the Dissertations & Theses database under “Databases and Article Searching” to look for dissertations)
> Records appear in Orbis for all Yale dissertations for which microfilm copies exist. These include:
(1) all dissertations completed in departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences since 1965
(2) selected dissertations completed in departments of the Graduate School between 1892 and 1965

> Yale dissertations can be located in Orbis by:
(1) Entering the author or title in a Simple Search
(2) Using the genre terms “dissertation” or “thesis” and words known to be in the bibliographic record in a Keyword search, for example:

If you do not locate a Yale dissertation in Orbis, check the card catalog at Manuscripts and Archives. Except for some early dissertations that are not available, all Yale dissertations are held at Manuscripts and Archives.

Search for fulltext online collections of primary sources in Orbis:

Use the “More Limits” function in Orbis to limit your search to “Electronic Resource” as the “Medium” then follow the suggestions given above for locating published collections of primary sources.

Search for microform collections of primary sources in Orbis:

Many important primary sources are available in microfilm or microfiche format. Click on the “More Limits” button on the Orbis search screen and highlight 1) “Archives and Manuscripts” from “Item Type” and 2) “Microform” from “Medium.” Once these limits have been set, then do a Keyword search related to your topic, e.g., enter the search Turkey and “foreign relations” to find primary source materials on that topic in microform format.
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Yale Finding Aid Database

What does it search?
The Yale Finding Aid Database searches the full text of finding aids for archival and manuscript materials at Yale University. Finding aids are guides that provide information about the creation, historical context, arrangement, and content of archival and manuscript collections as well as the information necessary for users to identify and request the portions relevant to their research.

Holdings of the following repositories are represented in the Finding Aid Database: Manuscripts and Archives (Sterling Memorial Library), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale Divinity School Library, Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Visual Resources Collection.

Search tips for finding primary sources via the Yale Finding Aid Database
See the Finding Aid Database search instructions(back to top)

MORRIS: Law Library Catalog

What does it search?
MORRIS searches the holdings of the Yale Law Library, including its Rare Book collection (back to top)

Peabody Museum of Natural History Online Catalogs

What does it search?
There are several Peabody catalogs, corresponding to the museum’s various divisions. The records presented in the public catalogs are exported from the Museum’s internal database systems. See the individual online catalogs for specific details about collections data. (back to top)

Additional catalogs at Yale

(1) Holdings of the Yale Art Gallery can be searched via their E-Catalogue and an in-house catalog.

(2) Some holdings of the Yale Center for British Art are cataloged in Orbis; others can be identified only through the YCBA in-house catalog.

(3) See the Special Catalogs page for information about other materials not represented in Orbis.(back to top)

Digitized Yale collections

Yale has digitized many of its own primary source collections. See the following site for a cross-collection search tool and links to resources of various repositories at Yale: Digital Collections(back to top)

WorldCat

What does it search?
WorldCat is the Online Computer Library Center’s (OCLC) online “union catalog.” It is a database of more than 1 billion records of books and other materials held in more than 10,000 academic, public, special and national libraries around the world. You can use the Advanced Search option to limit your search to “Archival Materials.”

NB:You can also search the websites of many repositories directly. See the University of Idaho guide: Repositories of Primary Sources (back to top)

ArchiveGrid

What does it search?
ArchiveGrid describes primary sources for material on family and corporate histories, personal papers, and historical records with direct search access to dispersed collections and collection descriptions.(back to top)

Archive Finder

What does it search?
Archive Finder brings together ArchivesUSA and the cumulative index to the National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the UK and Ireland (NIDS UK/Ireland). ArchivesUSA is a current directory of over 5,500 repositories and more than 161,000 collections of primary source material across the United States.(back to top)

Primary source collections online

An increasing number of primary sources from all over the world have been digitized and are available online. See the Guide to Primary Source Collections Online to get an idea of what types of primary sources materials are available.(back to top)

Selected primary source research guides

The research guides listed below have been compiled by collections specialists at Yale. Please note that Yale has many primary sources related to topics that are not on this list. Please contact the collections specialists for assistance.

American history
British history
Canada
Christianity / missions
Cold War
European history
Gay & Lesbian studies
Journalism
Latin America
Legislative history
Medical history
Medieval studies
Near East
Slavic /East European
World War I
World War II

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