Skip to Main Content

Primary Sources Defined

A primary source is usually a record made at the time of an event by participants or by firsthand observers. Examples include contemporary newspaper or magazine accounts, government reports, photographs, and manuscripts. For more information on primary sources, see this guide

For a guide on the history of the University of Oklahoma, see this link.

Newspapers and Magazines

Many Oklahoma cities, towns, and counties have daily or weekly newspapers. There are also many tribal newspapers published throughout Oklahoma. These resources may be found in a variety of places, both inside and outside the university.

For Oklahoma newspapers, check the OHS (Oklahoma Historical Society) Research Center's Newspaper Catalog. Some of these newspapers are available online through the Gateway to Oklahoma History while others are available on-site at the OHS Research Center.

See this link from Discover Local (the catalog) for a list of tribal newspapers at OU. There are also tribal newspapers available on microfilm in these collections, American Indian Periodicals from the State Historical Society of WisconsinAmerican Indian Periodicals in the Princeton University Library, and Contemporary Newspapers of the North American Indian.

See this link from Discover Local (the catalog) for a list of Oklahoma newspapers at OU. Also see this page for a list of newspapers on microfilm at the OU Libraries, including some Oklahoma newspapers.

Some key titles are listed here:

Digital Collections from the OU Western History Collections

The Western History Collections' Digital Collections feature oral histories and Native American manuscripts, rich primary resources highlighting many aspects of Oklahoma history.

Photographs

Photographs are a rich primary source. They can help make historical events more realistic by providing images of the who, what, when, and where of history.

The Western History Collections has physical photograph guide books on many subjects, including Oklahoma land runs, dust storms, cowboys, and the settlement of Oklahoma. These physical resources are available in the Western History Collections reading room (Monnet Hall room 300).

Digital photograph resources are listed below.

Manuscripts from the OU Western History Collections

Manuscripts are typically primary resources. Manuscript collections can include:

  • diaries
  • journals
  • business records
  • personal or business correspondence
  • unpublished manuscripts (books, articles, etc.)
  • family records
  • tribal records

There are several ways to locate manuscript collections related to Oklahoma history:

  • Finding aids for the manuscript collections are in ArchivesSpace. It is possible to search for specific collections, or to enter a keyword in the search box. To search:
    • Enter keyword in the search box
    • The list of results will include names of collections as well as subject terms;
      • It will be most useful to limit the results by collection. Under "Additional Filters," select "Collection" under "Type."
    • Click on a collection title to see the scope and inventory of the collection.
    • Click on "Print" to generate an easily-readable PDF finding aid.
    • Once you determine which collection materials you need, you will need to provide a collection name and box number.
  • Search Discover Local (the catalog).
    • Enter the search term in the first box.
    • Enter "Collection" in the second search box.
    • Select "Archives" from the Material Type drop down menu
    • Click the Search button.
    • Under "Tweak my results" use the "Limit to" facet to choose "Physical copies available in the Library."
    • To Narrow the results to Western History, scroll down to the "Collection" facet and choose "Western History Collections."
    • Click on the title to view a summary of the collections' content. 
  • Also see the individual finding aids in PDF format.
  • Most manuscript collections are described in the Guide to Manuscripts in the Western History Collections of the University of Oklahoma (PDF).
  • Visit the Western History Collections (Monnet Hall room 300) and use printed guides.

When you find a collection that fits your topic visit the Western History Collections to see the documents.

Oral History and Interviews

Government Documents

Government documents are any documents published by the government, both at the federal and state level. Government documents are found in many places, but a good place to start finding Oklahoma government material is this guide to Oklahoma Resources.

The Oklahoma Department of Libraries features the Oklahoma Digital Prairie. It contains digitized government documents and related collections. Topics include the Red River Compact, almanacs, the Tulsa Race Massacre, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, and Oklahoma Authors.

Also see OU Law Library guides related to Oklahoma listed below, under Other Resources.

For information on searching the census, see FamilySearch in Family History Resources below.

Family History Resources

Family history resources can come in many forms. Some will be available through the university and others available through outside organizations.

The Western History Collections Manuscript Collections feature many family collections, so check our printed guide to see if yours is included. Also see ArchivesSpace and this page with finding aids to the Collections. (All described above in this box.)

Below are links to other online resources available through area organizations.

FamilySearch

  • This is a bit like the free version of Ancestry.com (which is only available in-house at the Norman Public Library branch of Pioneer Library System, unless you have your own personal subscription.) Although it is free, you must create an account first.
  • Use the "search records" function to search resources such as the United States Census.

Other Resources