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BC Points to the Past- Searchable Primary Documents

Twenty-seven searchable collections of primary source materials: maps, photos, newspapers, manuscripts, pamphlets, portraits, sermons, poems, etc. Note that because it is provided through BC Government funding, access is limited to residents of British Columbia.

Browse by collection (all 27 collections)

Gale Artemis: Primary Sources

This unique platform provides an unprecedented, seamless research experience that helps scholars find a starting point, search across a wide array of materials and points in time, and discover new ways to analyze information. 

Chatham House Online Archive

The Chatham House Online Archive: the publications and archives of the Royal Institute of International Affairs is a multi-disciplinary resource bringing a 20th and 21st century world perspective to researchers and students. 

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive is a historical archive that embraces the scholarly study of slavery in a comprehensive, conceptual, and global way. Once completed, this digital collection will comprise five million pages of documents selected by a renowned board of scholars. 

State Papers Online

The largest digital manuscript archive of its kind, State Papers Online, 1509-1714 gathers together 16th- and 17th- century British State Papers and links these rare historical manuscripts to their fully text-searchable calendars. 

Gale NewsVault

Gale News Vault delivers single-point access to Gale’s ever-growing collection of historical newspapers and periodicals — currently more than 12 million digitized facsimile pages from newspapers and periodicals around the world.

British Literary Manuscripts Online

This extensive digital archive includes hundreds of thousands of pages of rare manuscripts, poems, plays, essays, novels, diaries, journals, correspondence, and other manuscripts from the year 1100 through the Victorian era. 

Declassified Documents Reference System

Focusing on the United States, this collection provides direct information on the critical policies and events of post World War II era, including reports from Cabinet meeting minutes, National Security Council policy statements, CIA intelligence studies, presidential conferences, State Department political analyses, and Joint Chiefs' papers.

World History Commons

An open educational resource with peer-reviewed content for world and global history teachers, scholars, and students. This website provides more than 1,700 annotated primary sources, 100 teaching guides, 30 overviews of methods and approaches, and 250 website reviews.

What Are Primary Documents?

"Primary Sources are immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic, from people who had a direct connection with it. Primary sources can include:

Texts of laws and other original documents.

Newspaper reports, by reporters who witnessed an event or who quote people who did.

Speeches, diaries, letters and interviews - what the people involved said or wrote.

Original research.

Datasets, survey data, such as census or economic statistics.

Photographs, video, or audio that capture an event." (


Finding Primary Sources

Finding primary sources can be very time-consuming and frustrating, especially when you're researching an unfamiliar topic.

Secondary Sources

One of the best ways to find primary sources is to note which ones were used in secondary sources such as articles and books. When reading them, pay attention to the primary sources they mention and make a note of the exact titles, authors, translators, etc. Many primary sources are available online, but finding them without the exact title of the document you're looking for can be challenging.

Searching the TWU Library Catalogue

TWU library has books containing primary documents. The most reliable way to find them is to do a "Keyword" search of Library OneSearch (the default library search) using a keyword that describes your subject and adding search terms such as "sources," "documents," or "reader," etc. For example, a OneSearch search for Greek history sources gives a good number of results. Limit your results to print books. Subject Term that describe the book. Clicking on a Subject Term link takes you to other books on the same subject.

Note that the resources available from Early Canadiana Online are now linked to the library catalogue and may appear in your catalogue search results.

Browsing for Primary Sources

This guide has links to online collections of documents, usually put together by other academic institutions.
We also have a browsable list of many of the print primary sources in the library in this PDF file.
Note that finding useful documents this way can be time-consuming and unsuccessful.

Internet Searches

Search engines are useful for finding a particular document or author. Search for the exact title of the document in quotation marks, if you have it. Otherwise, use terms unique to the document you are searching for combined with "primary documents" or "primary sources."


Wikipedia shouldn't be cited as a source, but it is a good source of links to primary documents. Search for the subject you're researching, go to External Links at the bottom of the article and see if there are any links to sites with primary documents. If you're researching a historical person, look at their Wikipedia entry for a list of their works. Some may be linked directly to online translations.

Google Books

Google Books may have the full text of works in the public domain. It's not the best place to start a search, but worth a try if other sources fail.

Getting Help

If this all sounds confusing, feel free to drop by our Research Help Desk and a librarian will be happy to help you with your search. You can also e-mail us.

Further Resources