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Primary Resources: Primary Resources

What they are and where to find them.

Primary Resources


The Ohio Historical Society defines primary sources as a “source created by people who actually saw or participated in an event and recorded that event or their reactions to it immediately after the event.” Examples include:
  • 1. Diaries, journals, speeches, letters, interviews, office memos and other papers.
  • 2. Memoirs and autobiographies describing events that the author was present for.
  • 3. Government documents including census records.
  • 4. Reports produced by organizations.
  • 5. Books, journals and newspapers if written at the time of the event.
  • 6. Photographs, audio tapes, and other media.
  • 7. Research data documenting scientific experiments.
  • 8. Popular works, educational material and other writings that document ideas or psychology of a particular timeframe.
  • 9. Artifacts of the period, including buildings, household items, and art.

Primary resources provide the reader with a “You are there” experience. They should be critically evaluated to assess the author’s point of view, bias, and agenda for writing. For example, a politician’s personal letter written to his wife may provide a truer indication of the motivation for his actions than the words from a speech he gave or how that speech was reported by the local newspaper. Yet all three should be examined to thoroughly understand the times in which they were written. This video Historical Primary Sources by Randall Niles, explains the need to examine original articles as much as possible.

The Ohio Historical Society also defines secondary sources as a “source created by someone either not present when the event took place or removed by time from the event.” With secondary resources, significant time has passed to permit an in-depth evaluation. Secondary sources include scholarly or popular books, articles, reference books, and textbooks.

Primary Resources in Maag Library Collections
Primary Resources on the Internet

European Library, is a free service that offers access to the resources of the 47 national libraries of Europe.

The following sites are excellent starting places for Ohio and U.S. history.


Subject Guide

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Bob Ault
Maag Library
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It Doesn't Take a Genius... but

A True Greek Tragedy:: The Holocaust in Salonika

A True Greek Tragedy: The Holocaust in Salonika

A YSU Documentary That Aired on PBS Western Reserve

Ash and Smoke cast photos

Now Available at Maag Library!

A joint effort of YSU’s Maag Library, History Department and the Department of Media & Academic Computing, this one hour documentary was broadcast by Public Television’s  Western Reserve Public Media  during the 2011-12 season and was rebroadcast in 2013. Here is a preview.

This Jambar article  discussed the creation of the program. It was featured at the Youngstown Area 2012 Jewish Film Festival   Dr. Saul Friedman taught at YSU from 1969 to 2006 and was founder of our Holocaust Studies program. In addition to a dozen books, he created 13 documentaries of which 5 received regional Emmy Awards.   He  died March 31, 2013.

According to the records of the Greek government, 56,500 Jewish citizens lived in the city of Salonika on the eve of the Holocaust.   By December 1944 only three remained.  This is their story–and by extension–it is the story of the Jews of Greece.

 Ash and /Smoke  may be borrowed from the Maag Library AudioVisual Collection, Call number  DVD 0432. 

It will appear online in the Maag archives in the future.

Photos from the Ash and Smoke premiere 2012