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Film Studies: Primary Sources

Digital Collections

Digital Collections

Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collections - - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Representing more than 35,000 items, Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collections presents a curated selection of materials from the library's extensive holdings on motion picture history. Items include correspondence, photographs, sheet music, scrapbooks, lobby cards, movie ephemera, books, film magazines and industry publications. The collections also provide access to publications of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences dating back to the founding of the organization in 1927.

Media History Project

A free online resource, featuring millions of pages of books and magazines from the histories of film, broadcasting, and recorded sound.

Museum of the Moving Image Research Guide

The Moving Image Source Research Guide is a gateway to the best online resources related to film, television, and digital media.

Primary Sources - Magazines


Media History Project - Hollywood Studio System Collection (1914-1964)

The periodicals in this collection chart the studio system during its rise, the transition to sound, the Great Depression, the World War II years, and postwar decline.

Media History Project - Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Collection (1896-1964)

The periodicals in this collection cover early radio and television broadcasting.

Media History Project - Early Cinema Collection (1903-1928)

The periodicals in this collection cover the early cinema and includes trade papers.

Search Engines

Search Engines & Databases

The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb) - A to Z list

Free scripts are available in HTML.

American Film Institute Catalog of Feature Films (AFI)

With extensive scholarly research compiled over the past fifty years, and an updated technological platform for enhancements in the future, the AFI Catalog database provides a uniquely robust, dynamic portal into film’s rich documentation of cultural history and personal narratives.

Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

Database of film information.

Historic Newspapers

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are contemporary accounts of an event, written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question. These original documents (i.e., they are not about another document or account) are often diaries, letters, memoirs, journals, speeches, manuscripts, interviews and other such unpublished works. They may also include published pieces such as newspaper or magazine articles (as long as they are written soon after the fact and not as historical accounts), photographs, audio or video recordings, research reports in the natural or social sciences, or original literary or theatrical works.

Primary:  First-hand account of an event, an original work

  • Autobiographies, letters, emails, diaries, speeches, interviews, oral histories
  • Documents, laws, treaties
  • Raw data that has been collected
  • Works of literature, art, music
  • Newspaper accounts of events, by someone on the scene

Secondary: A summary, interpretation, or analysis of something else

  • Articles, books, biographies which summarize, interpret the original statements, documents
  • Textbooks
  • Analysis of statistics
  • Criticism — of literature, art, music
  • Secondary accounts of events by those who compile and synthesize the original accounts

Tertiary: Usually a combination or collection of primary and secondary sources

  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Indexes
  • Handbooks, guidebooks, manuals

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