Social Science: Archives, Libraries, and Museums

Archives, libraries, and museums are sources of useful information in the social studies. While some materials are available online, it may be useful to contact the institution directly for specific questions.

Primary Sources

Primary sources in the social studies include print materials such as diaries, logs, journals, and letters. These materials are particularly useful in the study of history, but also in many other social studies areas.

Historians often use primary sources produced close to their era of study. They may examine government documents, financial records, newspapers, diaries, or letters. In many cases, they are also interested in artifacts such as coins, furniture, or art.

According to Huber (2014, 48),

“historically, monographs have played a significant role in the dissemination of health sciences information.”

While periodicals ultimately became the preferred scientific communication forum for current research, monographs continue to play an important role in conveying important information.

Increasingly, historians are going beyond books for information.

“A cursory glance across the meters of book shelves on decorative art in bookstores and libraries, a visit to a museum, a trip to a historic building, or even a walk down your street, reveals a mass of data that would - were it not for its material form - be considered a gold mine of primary sources for historian. For some time, this mass of historical evidence was often overlooked or sidelined, considered not the proper raw materials of a historian… Increasingly, though, historians regard objects as a useful, even necessary, component of their study of the past" (Harvey, 1, 2009).

Read Sinn, Donghee & Soares, Nicholas (2014). Historians’ use of digital archival collections: the web, historical scholarship, and archival research. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 65(9), 1794-1809.

Read Malkmus, Doris (October 2010). ‘Old stuff’ for new teaching methods: outreach to history faculty teaching with primary sources. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 10(4), 413-435.

Artemis Primary Sources from Gale is an integrated research environment that allows users to search across all of our library’s Gale primary source collections. Available from IUPUI.

try itTry It!
Go to Artemis Primary Sources. Scan through the databases and select one related to a social studies area to explore. List a database of interest and discuss three types of researchers who might be interested in this particular database. Also, share one item you found in the collection.

Subscription Databases: Primary Source Digital Collections

Alexander Street Press


try itTry It!
Explore a primary source digital collection from Alexander Street Press or Chadwyck-Healey. List the name or the database and three items in the collection that all relate to the same topic or question.


Archives Unbound from Gale. Addresses students and scholars' need to see primary, unpublished archival documents. Available through IUPUI.

try itTry It!
Explore Archives Unbound from Gale. Examine one of their collections. Identify an interesting document. List the full citation for the document, the type of document, and how it might be useful to a researcher.

Others from Gale

Libraries and Archives

Many libraries and archives are useful for locating social science information.

US Government

Digital Collections

Useful digital collections can be found at archives, libraries, and museums.

General Resources




Military and Political Science

try itTry It!
Explore a digital collection. Think about the audience for this collection.


The following resources from the National Archives and Records Administration are a good way to start locating geneaology information.

Read Mannix, Mary K. (2015). Introduction. In M.K. Mannix, F. Burchsted, & Whitlatch, JB, Guide to Reference in Genealogy and Biography. ALA Editions, 3-5.

annette lambPersonal Connection
I've always been fascinated by geneaology. I use the standard tools like Ancestry for most of my work. However, between my parents and siblings we've mined most of the information available. It's time to start digging deeper. To learn more about the Danish side of my family, I went to the Danish National Archives and did a search for my Great-Great-Great Grandmother Maren Kristine Mortensdatter. We share the same middle name. A search of the 1890 census shows that she was 75 years old, a widow, and housewife. She lived with her unmarried son. I picked up some new information. Her birthplace was Beistrup Parish, Hjørring. Her husband was still alive in the 1885 census and my great great grandmother was still living at home in the 1870 census. She was listed as a maid when she was 23 years old. She first appears in the census in 1834 at age 12. In the image below, you can see that she got her last name from her father Morten, Mortensdatter.


Museums related specifically to the social sciences include:

try itTry It!
Do a Google search for a museum focusing on social science topics such as a history museum or military museum and locate their website. Do they have a library or archives? Is it open to the public? Can requests be made? List the museum, the URL, and your findings.


Harvey, Karen (2009). History and Material Culture: A Student’s Guide to Approaching Alternative Sources. Routledge. Google Preview Available: https://books.google.com/books?id=xny_K1Id7vkC

Huber, Jeffrey T. (2014). Bibliographic sources for monographs. In J. Huber & S. Swogger, Introduction to Reference Sources in Health Sciences, Sixth Edition. ALA. Google Preview Available: https://books.google.com/books?id=UJr9AwAAQBAJ

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