As a college librarian, I often hear stressed-out students searching for primary sources say, "I'll take anything." Don't settle for just anything. There is a treasury of primary source material available electronically. Peruse my selection of 200-plus primary source sites by conducting a keyword search, exploring the tag cloud at left, or browsing by historical era. You can also visit my Delicious and Diigo sites to review my bookmarks. Here's hoping you find what you're looking for.

Monday, March 5, 2012

YouTube as a Primary Source Finder

Late last week I spent a lot of time with a student who was working on her senior thesis. She was searching for primary source material relating to the Pieds Noirs – the French citizens who lived in Algeria and later fled the country en masse following the Algerian War of Independence. She was hoping, ideally, to find some interviews or autobiographies. Language wasn’t an issue – the student knows French. Geography wasn’t a problem either – we were willing to order whatever she needed from wherever it was held through interlibrary loan. We just couldn’t find what she was looking for.

Then, we tried YouTube and hit pay dirt. A simple search for Pieds Noirs in that archive gave us a result set that included broadcast interviews with those who had left Algeria, news clips describing July 1962 massacre in the city of Oran, and stories showing the subsequent the exodus of the Pieds Noirs. More importantly, some of those hits led is us to, the website for France’s National Audiovisual Institute. That site provides visitors the opportunity to view or listen to more than 30,000 hours of audiovisual material. Our search for Pieds Noirs in that resource turned up more than 80 different clips from news organizations.

The photo above depicts a boy carrying a toy rifle as he walks with his mother past French soldiers in battle gear at the Bastille Palace in Oran, Algeria, May 4, 1962. That image comes from the photo gallery featured in the US. State Department’s website

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