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National History Day Resources at the New Mexico State Library: Primary vs. Secondary Resources

Primary vs. Secondary Resources

Historic Newspapers

Newspapers contain a wealth of primary sources and can help us to understand what types of events were important to certain communities and how specific events were viewed at the time they occurred. It is helpful to note that not all the content in a newspaper is considered a primary source. Commentaries, editorials, and retrospectives are examples of secondary sources within newspapers. They are all valuable for your research, but remember to evaluate what you find.

Historic newspapers are available digitally and as microfilm. The New Mexico State Library has a digital collection of historic newspapers that you can search using keywords, dates, and locations. You have to be at the State Library to access this collection. It is similar to The Library of Congress' online newspaper database, Chronicling America, but the collections are not identical so it is a good idea to search them both.

Additionally, we have thousands of rolls of microfilm of New Mexico newspapers dating from the territorial period of the 1850’s to the present.  Microfilm readers and printers are available and staff can help you locate the newspapers that might be helpful for your research and use the microfilm readers.


Digital Access to Primary and Secondary Resources

For journal articles, magazines, encyclopedias, images, commentaries and more check out El Portal (available from any internet computer). This collection covers a huge variety of subjects. If you aren't sure if this resource is for you, click HERE to explore select topics available in Middle School and High School content areas.

View this short video for an introduction in using the El Portal resources.

Finding Primary and Secondary Resources

Start learning about a subject area of interest through secondary sources such as non-fiction books, biographies, reference books, encyclopedias, and magazine and journal articles. Use the New Mexico State Library catalog to locate items about your subject. Try a variety of search terms to locate what you need.

We also have a growing collection of e-books on a wide variety of topics in New Mexico and Southwest history. You can find them in our catalog, but you will need to create an account with NM READS to check them out!

TIP: If youare looking for primary resources, consider adding words like autobiography, diary, letters, "personal narrative", correspondence, or interview to your search terms.

Library of Congress Research Guides

Using the Library of Congress Online: A Guide for Middle and High School Students

The Library’s website ( provides open access to a wide variety of digital primary and secondary sources of interest to researchers of all ages. This guide provides links to primary and secondary sources, as well as information on citing sources, formatting papers, strategies for searching, and types of sources. In short, it is designed to help you identify and use online resources from the Library of Congress for a range of research projects—inside or outside the classroom.

Index of Library of Congress Research Guides

Research guides to the Library's general collections of books and periodicals, as well as general subject guides prepared by Library of Congress reference librarians, are listed below. More online guides covering other Library of Congress collections are available via the LC Bibliographies, Research Guides and Finding Aids page.