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*Primary Sources: A Guide

A guide to identifying and locating primary sources for conducting research in history.

Working with Organizational Records

Organizations represent a wide range of formal groups, organized around a central purpose or mission. Under this definition, organizations include business, religious groups, activist groups, professional associations, and more. We can also think of government as a form of organization, but we deal with government and their documents separately below. 

Just as organizations pursue a diverse range of activities, they also produce many different types of documents. Internal meeting minutes may reveal how an organization was administered or reached important decisions, while marketing materials and press releases aimed at the broader public illustrate how a group tried to persuade the public on an issue or in the marketplace.

When considering how to use organizational records, consider the following?

  • Who wrote this?
  • Does the mission of the organization change how we think about this document? (e.g. commercial advertising, missionary publications, civil rights activists' pamphlets)
  • Was this document created for the public, or was it only meant to be used privately by an individual or office?
  • Whose perspective is missing from this publication?

Businesses

Political and Social Organizations

Missionaries & Religious Groups

Professional Associations

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