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Primary Sources in Health Care for HIST280

Primary source web archives - Primary source databases - Citing sources - Questions?

Primary source web archives

The digital archives listed here are all available free on the Internet. This is a sampling of what you can access. See below for information on finding additional digital archives on more narrowly-focused topics in health care and medicine.

Medical Heritage Library
The Medical Heritage Library (MHL) represents the combined digital archives of a number of leading medical libraries. (Click "About" on the main page to see the list of institutions.) It's a good place to begin your search for primary sources.

Medicine in the Americas 1610-1920: A Digital Library
This archive of sources from the National Library of Medicine's history of medicine division "makes freely available original works demonstrating the evolution of American medicine from colonial frontier outposts of the 17th century to research hospitals of the 20th century." To search, click "Introduction," then "Medicine in the Americas" in the first paragraph; narrow to a specific topic by typing keywords in the search box at the top of the page and/or using the menus to the left of the search results.

Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics
From the Harvard University libraries, this resource offers historical documents on diseases and epidemiology with the pupose of shedding light on present-day practices. To begin, select a topic from the left-hand menu or click "Search/Browse" at the top of the page.

American Social Health Association Records 1905-1990
This collection "chronicle[s] the American Social Health (originally 'Hygiene') Association's efforts to control and prevent venereal disease, prostitution, and drug addiction through educational, legal, and medical measures." The site is sponsored by the University of Minnesota.

Images from the History of Medicine
A sub-set of the National Library of Medicine's history of medicine division, this archive "includes portraits, photographs, caricatures, genre scenes, posters, and graphic art illustrating the social and historical aspects of medicine dated from the 15th to 21st century."

National Library of Medicine Films and Videos
This link takes you to the complete list of films and videos; to narrow down, type a keyword in the search box or use the menus on the left hand side of the page.

Depending on your topic, there may be other, more focused Web archives available for you to use. To find them, I recommend using Google's advanced search, which allows you to be very precise about what you want. In the search box labeled "any of these words," I would type this: "primary sources" documents. That tells the search to find either the word documents or the phrase "primary sources." Type your topic in the top box. You might also narrow to a domain further down on the page; .edu, .gov, and/or .org are most likely to contain reliable primary source archives.

Before you select a document, or even start to browse an archive you've found, ascertain whether you trust the archive to provide high-quality primary source documents. Specifically, be sure you know what institution is providing the archive. Colleges and universities, the U.S. government, and/or esteemed medical institutions are most likely to be reliable. Click the "About" link to find this information.

Primary source databases

Augustana subscribes to several primary source databases that will also be good sources of documents. Find the databases listed here via this path:

Library home --> Databases --> History, Religion, & Philosophy --> History --> Primary Source Databases

New York Times
Full-text access to the New York Times from its founding in 1851 through 2009.

American Periodical Series Online
Full-text of magazines and journals from colonial America through the early 20th century. APS will be a treasure-trove of information for this project; it even includes dozens of periodicals devoted specifically to medicine.

Women and Social Movements
This is a collection of documents related to U.S. women's participation in social movements from 1600-2000. Type a keyword in the search box on the top right of the screen, or browse under "Subjects," then "General Subjects," for an overview of topics covered.

Citing Sources

Use either MLA or Chicago Manual of Style to cite your sources. Online guides to both citation styles are available here:

Library home --> Citing Sources (under "Research Tools")


Please email me (StefanieBluemle - at - with any questions about your research for this class. You can also find me at the research help desk on the second floor of the library off and on during the week.

Or, talk to any librarian on duty at the research help desk: in-person, or via phone (309-794-7206), email (, or the red "Ask an Augie Librarian" box on every page of the library website.

Page created by Stefanie Bluemle, librarian for history, religion, and philosophy. Updated March 2014.