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Using Archives and Special Collections (Tri-Co)

This guide offers hints on how to use archival and special collections material, from reading material through citation.

Evaluating Primary Sources

As you work with your primary sources, keep in mind the following questions and ideas to help you evaluate these sources:

  • Creator - Who created this document, and why? What is the creator's relationship to the events they are relating?
  • Audience - What was the original audience for this document?
  • What is Missing - What gaps are there in the document? What information does not appear? Why do you think this might be?
    • Collection Context - What other materials are found around the document within the manuscript collection? How does the document fit into the story of the person, family, or organization that the collection is telling? Is the document typical or atypical of the collection?
    • Historical Context - When was the document created? What else is happening during the creation of this document? How might that influence the document?
    • Materiality - Think about the material nature of the document (paper, handwriting, length, size, etc.). How does this influence the way you read the document? What does it tell you about the creator and/or audience? What other evidence can you gain from the physical object that you might not find in a digital version?

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