Historic newspapers are an excellent primary research source. Van Wylen has access to several historic newspaper collections, including the New York Times (1851-3 yrs ago), the Times of London (1785-1985) and the Chicago Tribune (1849-1985). These websites provide full text and full image archives of old newspapers that can give you insight into what it was like to live through historic events.
Because the archives of these papers go back so far, it’s helpful to search with narrow terms. Searching just “John F. Kennedy” in the New York Times archives, for example, gives you over 128,000 results. If you limit these results to articles published in 1963, just over 2000 articles appear. You can further limit your search by adding other context keywords or by limiting to specific types of documents, such as articles, editorials or letters to the editor, to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
It is also important to keep historic terminology in mind while searching. A search for the term “African-American” in the Chicago Tribune from 1856 to 1872 brings back one result, whereas a search for the term “negro” in the same date range brings back over 7500 results.
If you’re interested in more of a popular culture primary source, consider looking through archived issues of Harper’s Weekly. This database groups issues together by historic time period, such as the Civil War or the Gilded Age, which can help guide your research. Unlike newspapers, Harper’s contains many fictional or literary works that can give you a different perspective on what it was like to live during those time periods.
— Bethany Stripp, Library Student Blogger