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BGSU University Libraries

Hands-on History: Primary Sources in University Libraries' Special Collections: Primary Source Research @BGSU

Primary Sources @BGSU

The BGSU University Libraries have four collections that have primary sources. Our archives and special collections include the:


When searching for primary sources, the BGSU catalog is a good place to start, as many primary sources can be found in the catalog.

  • Searching for primary sources is much like searching for secondary sources. You can search by author, title, and/or subject.
  • You can also narrow the search by searching within specific collections. Use the 'Collection' field to select which collection you would like to search within.
  • You can also limit the search by selecting a 'Material Type.'


Finding Aids

Manuscript materials are usually described with finding aids. A finding aid is a document containing detailed information about a specific collection of papers or records within an archive.

Our finding aids usually include the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Biographical Sketch or Agency History
  • Scope and Content
  • Series Description
  • Inventory

The majority of the finding aids created by BGSU can be found on our Finding Aid website.

  • All of our finding aids are fully searchable and are indexed by Google.


In addition to cataloged records and finding aids, some of our collections have resources and/or bibliographies and research guides on their websites.

CAC Bibliographies

BPCL Special Collections

ML/BSSA Special Collections

CRC Special Collections

To keep in mind when doing primary source research


  • BGSU archives and special collections are not open as often as the main library.
  • Be sure to check hours before visiting.

Application Forms and Call Slips

  • Most archives and special collections require that you fill out an application form. Some require an ID. Be sure to check policies and procedures before you do research.
  • Depending on the collection, you may also need to fill out a call slip for each item you would like to use. A call slip should include, your name, the collection name/number or call number, title, and date.


  • Some materials are restricted. Degrees of restriction may vary. Please check the finding aid for possible restrictions.

Fragile Items

  • You may run into fragile items or encounter preservation issues. If you do, please let us know.

No Food or Drink Allowed

  • Pens, backpacks, briefcases, and purses are also not allowed. You can place backpacks, briefcases and purses in cubbies or lockers.


  • You can scan materials and email them for free. You can make copies using your BG1 card.
  • If materials are too fragile to scan or copy, or are 3-D, you may be able to photograph them or we can photograph them for you. Please do not use flash when photographing.


  • Finding aids do not always describe materials to the item level, so doing primary source research can be an adventure. You may not know exactly what you will find until you are working with the materials. This fact can make primary source research time-consuming, but also fun!

Ask Us

  • We might not have finding aids or catalog records for all items in the collection, so make sure you've checked with a staff member to make sure you're seeing everything available related to your topic. We're always happy to be a resource to help you with your research!