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Characteristics of Primary Sources
- Primary sources can either be first-hand observation/analysis, or accounts contemporary with the events described.
- Primary sources document events, people, viewpoints of the time.
- When research is more era, rather than event driven, scope of possible primary sources broadens considerably.
- Primary sources represent one person's perspective; frequently will be used with secondary/tertiary sources to broaden the lens through which a researcher is looking at an event, era, or phenomenon.
- It is important when using anything as a primary source that the researcher be cognizant of and sensitive to the bias of the observer/analyzer that created the primary source, and also to the broader cultural biases of the era in which the primary source was created.
- The researcher's perspective, or the arguments or points for which a researcher plans to use a primary source as evidence, is significant in determining what sources will be primary.
- Reproductions of primary sources remain primary for many research purposes.
- Some attributes are based more on the perspective represented in the source and context in which the source is being used by researcher.
Examples of Primary Source Material
Diary of Charles Drayton I
Includes descriptions of towns including: Baltimore MD, Wilmington DE, Albany N.Y., Washington D.C., Raleigh and Fayetteville, N.C. Information is also given on countryside, roads, buildings, bridges, agriculture, and flora. Attention is given to architectural features throughout. Included are occasional sketches and descriptions of estates, including William Hamilton's The Woodlands and the "Palace of the President" [White House], and the Capitol buildings. Drayton travels part-way with Eli Whitney (1765-1825), creator of the cotton gin.
Newspaper: William Lloyd Garrison, Apostle of the Blacks
A recount of William Lloyd Garrison's life, in particular his rise to become one of the most prominent Abolitionist leaders. In particular it describes his imprisonment for libelity, lecture series in New York and Boston, Establishment of his newspaper the "Liberator", and the formation of the Abolition Society at Boston.
Oral History: Interview with Joseph P. RIley, Jr.
In this interview with Citadel Cadet Steven Foster, Riley reflects on the City’s disaster preparations for Hurricane Hugo in September 1989. The Mayor recalls that his main concerns were to encourage citizens to evacuate and to provide for those who needed shelter after the storm. Hunkered down in City Hall with other City employees, they listened anxiously as the metal roof was torn from the building and flung across the street. After the storm, which was among the most destructive to hit the United States, Riley worked closely with political, business, and civic leaders to revive the region’s economy and repair its badly damaged infrastructure.
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