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Theatre & Performance Studies: Primary Sources

This guide is intended as a starting place for researchers, pointing to tools for finding books, scholarly articles, reviews, and other topical and collection-related information in Theatre.

Primary Sources Definition

What are Primary Sources?  Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to the truth of what actually happened during an historical event or time period. Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied.  A primary source (also called original source) is a document, recording, artifact, or other source of information that was created at the time under study, usually by a source with direct personal knowledge of the events being described. It serves as an original source of information about the topic. Similar definitions are used in library science, and other areas of scholarship. In journalism, a primary source can be a person with direct knowledge of a situation, or a document created by such a person. Primary sources are distinguished from secondary sources, which cite, comment on, or build upon primary sources, though the distinction is not a sharp one.

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Historical Image Collections

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cushman_in_Ha..., The American actress Charlotte Cushman advertised in William Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Washington Theater in 1861.  Author:Washington Theater, SOURCE:Public Library of Congress. this image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

The Billy Rose Theatre Collection

TITLE: [Scene from Othello with Paul Robeson as Othello and Uta Hagen as Desdemona, Theatre Guild Production, Broadway, 1943-44]  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robeson_Hagen_Othello.jpg SOURCE:Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540The Billy Rose Theatre Collection of The New York Public Library is one of the largest and most comprehensive archives devoted to the theatrical arts. This image is a work of an employee of the United States Farm Security Administration or Office of War Information domestic photographic units, created during the course of the person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Books containing primary source documents