Primary vs. Secondary sources

September 25, 2009

Artifacts such as clothing, painting, and furniture can be used as primary or secondary sources to determine a culture and a history depending on where the information came from. An example of a primary source would be an actual excerpt from Anne Frank’s diary. Primary sources are those that are the earliest in a sequence. In my opinion, primary sources are much harder to find because much of the historical information might date back to the beginning of time. It is a primary source if either a document or a physical object was presented during that certain time period. But even then primary sources may be inaccurate because through pictures or paintings, it is hard to determine the true shape of a garment or the back side of a vase. In this case I think it’s best to do as much research as we can and make an educated guess.

An example of a secondary source would be a published textbook analyzing Anne Frank’s Diary. Secondary sources are derived from something original. Unlike primary sources which are the original source, secondary sources are the analyzed work from the primary source. This might include things like pictures and quotes put together into a collective; like a book or a magazine. Secondary sources may be contradictory also because the analysis of an artist or an author may be incorrect or bias, but that just brings analyzing to another level in which more research must be conducted. In the example on Figure 19 in Lecture 3, a well known artist may not be completely accurate due to studies of that certain time period. However, the artist itself might be telling a story from their perspective that might need to be taken into account.

Today, historians can uncover the secrets behind the Egyptian culture. With all the information from both primary and secondary sources, they can analyze any history about the costume, any history about the people and their common resources.

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