Peter Milbury asked for the synopsis of the "What's the source?" conversation
among some American Memory fellows. I created the synopsis as part of Pat's
and my upcoming presentation in San Francisco on November 8th.
Hope it's helpful.
WhatUs the Source?
Many people have difficulty distinguishing between primary and secondary
The confusion never seems to go away.
Many students, and also teachers, think the American Memory special
presentations or "exhibits" are the primary source collections themselves.
"Instant access" in this electronic world is both good and bad. On the one
hand, we have access to stuff we never had before. On the other hand, because
it sometimes seems so easy, we can get sidetracked from the real issue of
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
Working with primary documents has, until the advent of the internet, been
something that very few have been able to do.
Trained historians sometimes make mistakes when dealing with primary sources.
Collections that employ both primary and secondary sources provide a
great opportunity to teach research methods, and examining sources is an
integral part of this process.
Raise the visibility of primary sources. As the corpus of primary source
materials grows, and as more and more people have access to it, we will learn
"to read" sources more independently and with more care.