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SOC 230: Memory and Forgetting: Unpublished Primary Sources

Professor Christina Simko

Reports / Speeches / Commentaries

When researching the cultural history of an object, in addition to searching for  public opinion reaction in news sources, you may want to search for primary sources that were produced along with the object, such as: 

  • Architectural plans, drawings 
  • Proposals written to advocate for the project 
  • Responses to proposals from municipal governments,  funding agencies, local citizen groups 
  • Documents produced by the organization responsible for the caretaking of the object (e.g. museum, parks, etc.) 
  • City maps and/or urban planning documents 

Such documents are inherently challenging to locate and access, as they are often held in archives and frequently not digitized.  If you wish to access such sources, you may need to contact librarians, archivists, curators at libraries and museums and request copies of documents. 

How to start: 

  • Identify the caretaking agency for the object (e.g. museum, park, foundation),  find their web site and see what documents are available online (e.g. news archives) and/or contact an archivist or curator  
  • Identify the artist/creator and search for biographies (in library catalog or Worldcat), interviews (in news databases) 
  • Access municipal documents (reports, ordinances, statistics) through cities' web site and/or archives 
  • Use reference sources to look for background information on the area and/or subject of the object

Where to start: 

Library Catalogs: 

You can use  library catalog to identify and locate published primary sources. 

To search, combine your topic, Library of Congress Subject Headings such as: 

  • Reports 
  • Correspondence 
  • Personal Narrative 
  • Maps 


Reference Sources: