Skip to Main Content

Finding, Researching, and Using Primary Resources

Online Archival Searching

There are a few sites that allow users to search the institution's archival and special collections remotely.  However, this does not cover all archival collections available.   All the listed database below do not require a special login to use.


The picture of the splash page for the website of Archivegrid


ArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more.  Over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies.  This is predominantly covering institutions found within United States.

The picture of the splash page for the website of Worldcat with advanced searching tab open


Worldcat is a union catalog that itemizes the collections of 15,600 libraries in 107 countries.  Worldcat will allow users to search for primary resources specifically.  In order to do so, you need to change the settings.  First step is to click on the advanced searching tab.  Look for “Format” sections and select “Archival Material”.  Then proceed with your selected  search term. 

The picture of the splash page for the website of California State Archive

California State Archive

The California State Archives is responsible for the management and preservation of state government records.  Within the more than 300 million items in its collections are documents from the state's first constitutional convention in 1849, land grant records of the Spanish and Mexican eras, campaign contribution statements, State Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal case files, legislative committee files, original laws, papers of many of the state's leading politicians, and large collections of photographs, maps, drawings, and audio/visual materials.

The picture of the splash page for the website of Library of Congress

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress.  As a result, it is the home of the US Copyright Office, Congressional Records, and the world's largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.  There is a plethora of resources such as House and Senate Documents, Senate Executive Documents, and Senate Treaty Documents  that can be utilized in several research projects.

The picture of the splash page for the search page of National Archives and Records Administration

National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) is the Federal Government’s repository of essential and historical records.  This catalog searches through all NARA’s locations.  To have search results must revelation it to you, search the NARA facility that oversees the region that the desired government agencies located.

The picture of the splash page for the website of The Online Archives of California

Online Archive of California (OAC)

This online database has descriptions of primary resource collections maintained by more than 200 contributing institutions including libraries, special collections, archives, historical societies, and museums throughout California.  The OAC has comprehensive online collection guides posted making it easier to find specific collections or records.   Each entry has detailed descriptions of materials within a collection, background, and historical studies.  If the host institutions have digitized material that can be viewed online,  they have a direct link for easy access.

The picture of the splash page for the website of the Internet Archive

Internet Archive

Internet Archive is a mix of digitally born and digitized materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, movies/videos, moving images, and millions of books.  Its most notable feature is the systemic capture of websites as they exist and function at the time of their capture, called the Wayback machine.  It has been actively capturing websites since 1996.