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Primary Sources: Digital and Physical Archives and Manuscript Collections

This guide is intended to introduce primary sources: what they are and where you can find them at Gelman, online, and elsewhere.

Content Warning

When working with historical materials, you may encounter racist, oppressive, or outdated language and imagery in specific materials or represented in the wider archival record.

Finding Primary Sources @ GW


The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) offers numerous primary sources, including maps, manuscripts, newspapers, diaries, photographs, and pamphlets. The SCRC collects materials related to many areas of research; strengths include University history, Washingtoniana, labor history, and education. There is also a collection of rich bibliographies on popular topics (such as LGBT Resources, American Labor History, and Maps of Washington DC) available to assist researchers interested in particular topics. Contact a special collections librarian for help with your research.

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Using Archival Collections On Site in Gelman

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This database allows you to search across all of the library's archival collections. You can limit your search results by date, names, and subjects. The majority of the archival, manuscript, and rare book collections in special collections are housed offsite and require 3-5 business days for retrieval. Request materials in advance of visits. Send requests or questions here: 

Digital Collections

There are a wide range of collections that have been digitized and are accessible online at the SCRC website.  Materials include historical GW photographs, the monthly engagement diaries of Winston Churchill, images and documents from the Corcoran galleries, Hatchet newspapers, Cherry Tree yearbooks, and much more. Most of the digital collections from GW's special collections are available on the Internet Archive, this page offers step-by-step instructions for searching GW materials in the Internet Archive.

Primary Source Databases

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