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Finding and Using Primary Sources: Archives

A guide on defining, finding, and using primary resources in your research


Online Collection Guides

ArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.

National Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation's record keeper. Find both online documents and information about material preserved in the archives.

WorldCat is the world's largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information. When searching, limit "Format" to "Archival material" in the advanced search. Contains records from the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections from 1986-present.

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Librarians are available from 9am to 12am most days to help you with your research. You can reach us in person, via chat, phone, or email.


Local Archives

David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The holdings of the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library range from ancient papyri to social media. They number more than 350,000 printed volumes, more than 10,000 archival collections, in addition to extensive photography, film, and audio collections.

Durham Museum Photo Archive Collection
Photo Archive contains over 1 million images spanning from the 1860s to the 1990s. They document the fascinating history of Omaha from its early days as a young frontier town to a unique and sophisticated city. A long forgotten storefront, Presidents on parade, row upon row of cattle in the stockyards, streetcars and a family picnic; each image preserves one moment in time, but also tells a hundred different stories!

Durham County Library: North Carolina Collection
The North Carolina Collection preserves and makes available the historical record of the city and county of Durham. You'll find a wealth of materials to assist with researching North Carolina-related topics as well as several online exhibits.

Open Durham
Open Durham is a highly interlinked archive/inventory of information about people, places, and history in Durham, NC. It grew out of the blog "Endangered Durham," which Gary Kueber started in August of 2006 in reaction to the ongoing demolition of historic structures in the city of Durham, NC. Frustrated by the belief that city/county/state policy was very weak in providing avenues for protection of historic property, and that the city had become particularly aggresssive in destroying such property to 'reduce blight', Gary wanted to highlight what was being lost, and that there were more creative alternatives.

Durham County Public Records Databases
The On-line Durham County Public Records Databases allow online access to a number of public information databases. The following databases are available for inquiry: Food and Lodging Grades; GIS Mapping; Calls for Service Reports; Inmate Population Search; Property Taxes; Public Records Search; and Voter Registration Records.

North Carolina Digital Heritage Center
The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is a statewide digitization and digital publishing program housed in the North Carolina Collection at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library. We work with North Carolina cultural heritage institutions* to scan, describe, and publish historical materials online, which in turn increases access to and use of their collections. We are North Carolina’s hub for the Digital Public Library of America. The Center is supported by the State Library of North Carolina with funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, and by the UNC-Chapel Hill University Library.