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What are primary sources? Primary sources provide firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic or question under investigation.

They are usually created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later.

Primary sources can be found in all of Yale’s libraries and museums as well as in online resources.  You can browse the collections or begin your search with examples of various formats.

Identify Types & Formats

Yale School of Medicine Class of 1895. Cushing/Whitney Medical Library.

Yale School of Medicine Class of 1895, including students from the 1896 and 1897 classes. Yale School of Medicine Collection. Cushing/Whitney Medical Library.

Find & Discover

Women's Headshawl (Mendil). Yale University Art Gallery.

Unidentified Berber artist, Woman’s Head Shawl (Mendil), Tunisia, Matmata Mountains, Tamezret or Toujout village, mid-20th century. Wool, cotton, natural dyes, silk, and rayon or synthetic yarn, 40 × 29 in. (101.6 × 73.66 cm). Yale University Art Gallery, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund, 2016.86.5. Photo: Yale University Art Gallery

Explore Collections

General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Ketubah (marriage contract), made in Bozzolo, Italy, dated September 1, 1780. General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.