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Historians have a lot in common with detectives. Both sift through evidence until they build a case that proves what happened and why. But historians don't usually spend time at crime scenes or in forensic labs; we rely on different kinds of evidence. Private correspondence, newspapers, government reports, sermons, posters, photographs, census data, drawings, maps, court testimony - there’s a seemingly endless array of evidentiary materials that we call "primary sources." We use these sources to answer questions about the past.
So where can a Coastal student find original documents about Colonial Charleston or the Gold Rush? Where do you turn for Civil War maps or newspaper accounts of the Lindberg kidnapping or D-Day? Kimbel Library, of course!
Just start with the catalog to see what's on the shelves and then move on to the library's electronic databases such as Accessible Archives, Early American Newspapers, American Memory and New York Times Historical Newspapers. They have databases that provide information on women's history, the trans-Atlantic slave trade or even on European literature about the Americas. American History and Life and JSTOR provide a wealth of secondary sources such as journal articles to put things in context.
Students in all of my upper-level classes in Early American history use the databases in Kimbel Library to find primary sources for their research papers. Many of them are among the ninety Coastal Carolina University students who have presented history papers at conferences since 2001. The next time you need to answer questions about the past, visit the Kimbel Library - in person or online. Or talk to a History professor!
- John Navin, Associate Professor, Department of History, Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts