Primary Source - Materials from the time of the person or event being researched. (Letters, diaries artifacts, photographs, and other types of first-hand accounts and records, as well as reminiscences and oral histories. Stories from newspapers of the time may also be primary sources.)
Secondary Source - Materials that were created at a later time. They analyze and interpret primary sources; footnotes or bibliographies can lead to primary sources.
Still confused about Primary vs. Secondary Sources? Check out our short video tutorial!
You can make the most of your time at the MN Historical Society Library by finding materials you want to use before you arrive.
The first stop for finding materials is the Online Catalog. You can search it from any computer with internet access. It works similarly to library catalogs at public libraries, but here are some hints for using it more efficiently:
Some of the best primary source materials are manuscript or archival collections. These include things like diaries, letters, government records, and the records of companies and organizations.
All of these collections are listed in the online catalog, and about 10 to 15% have full online finding aids. A finding aid is a more detailed inventory of a collection and you can search them online from the Collection Finding Aids webpage.
Collections that do not have a online finding aid will have a print finding aid that you can look at in the Library.
For more information about using finding aids please check out this short video tutorial:
The Collections Online system contains information and images of 3-D objects, photographs, art, maps, and more from the MNHS Collections. Here are some hints for your search: