Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Creative Arts: Primary Sources

This guide provides instructions and lists of resources for students and faculty conducting research in the Creative Arts fields.

What are primary sources?

In the strictest definition, primary sources are usually considered to be items like personal letters, diaries, records or other documents created during the period under study. But primary sources can also include photographs, jewelry, works of art, architecture, literature, music, clothing, and other artifacts.

In a broader definition, primary sources can also be considered materials that provide first-hand accounts of the events, practices, or conditions you are researching. In general, these are documents that were created by the witnesses or first recorders of these events at about the time they occurred, and include diaries, letters, reports, photographs, creative works, financial records, memos, and newspaper articles.

Primary sources might also include first-hand accounts that were documented later, such as autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories. However, the most useful primary sources are usually considered to be those that were created closest to the time period you’re researching.

Examples of Primary Sources

  • Original artwork
  • Architecture
  • Photographs
  • Recordings of performances and music
  • Scripts (film, theatre, television)
  • Music scores
  • Interviews
  • Memoirs
  • Diaries
  • Letters