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Theatre for Youth and Community Collection

This guide is to engage researchers and community members with the history of theatre for young audiences and drama in education.

Types and Formats

What are primary sources?

Primary sources provide firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic or question under investigation. They are usually created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Personal papers and archives are primary sources, and form the majority of the Theatre for Youth and Community Collection. A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art.  Primary sources present original thinking, report on discoveries, or share new information.



Manuscript and archival materials are unique resources that can usually be found in only one library or institution (though digital copies or copies on microfilm or microfiche may be available elsewhere).

The term archives, when it refers to documents, as opposed to a place where documents are held, refers to the records created or received and maintained by an institution or organization in the course of its operations. The term manuscripts, which originally referred to handwritten items, now also refers to a body of papers of an individual or a family. Archive may also be used for a collection of personal or family papers where the collector attempts to acquire all records and works that a person or family created. Both terms can encompasses a broad array of documents and records of numerous formats and types. Archival records or manuscripts may include business and personal correspondence, diaries and journals, legal and financial documents, photographs, maps, architectural drawings, music manuscripts, printed music, objects and artifacts, film, sound recordings, literary works, and digital media.

Below: Manuscript from David Saar Papers; photo credit: Samantha Chow, ASU News.

Books and Pamphlets

Books are the essential secondary source: scholars use primary source materials such as letters and diaries to write books, which are in turn secondary sources.

However, books can also be a rich source of primary source material. In some instances, as in the case of published memoirs, autobiographies, and published documents, it is easy to determine when a book functions as a primary source. However, even secondary source materials can function as primary sources.


Dissertations are book-length studies based on original research and written in partial fulfillment of requirements for the doctoral degree. Although usually secondary sources, dissertations can themselves be primary sources or can be extremely helpful in identifying and locating primary sources.


Ephemera are primary source materials that are often associated with temporary or short-lived use in everyday life, such as cards, tickets, and labels, but can also include documents that are meant to be saved, like banknotes and marriage certificates.  Generally, ephemera are primary sources that are incidental, transient, and unselfconscious, and while we often associate the term with paper, the category can also include digital ephemera, like social media status updates. An important part of their value as primary sources is the improbability of their survival.

Objects and Artifacts

Artifacts are three-dimensional and, unlike books and manuscripts, can be either human-made or naturally occurring. They also can be found in archival collections and papers of individuals and families.  All collected artifacts are deemed as having documentary value, and some are valued for their intrinsic worth, others for their artistic merit, and others for their historical significance or scientific value.

Oral Histories

Oral history is the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using audiotapes, videotapes, or transcriptions of planned interviews. These interviews are conducted with people who participated in or observed past events and whose memories and perceptions of these are to be preserved as an aural record for future generations. Oral history strives to obtain information from different perspectives and most of these cannot be found in written, published sources,

Serials: Newspapers, Journals, Magazines

A serial is a publication, such as a magazine, newspaper, or scholarly journal, that is published in ongoing installments. Like books, serials can function both as primary sources and secondary sources depending on how one approaches them. Age is an important factor in determining whether a serial publication is most useful as a primary or a secondary source.

Visual Materials

The term “visual material” refers to any primary source in which images, sometimes in conjunction with words or sound, are used to convey meaning. Factual information can often be extracted from visual materials, while their subjective nature provides insight into how people see themselves and the world in which they exist.

The ASU Library acknowledges the twenty-three Native Nations that have inhabited this land for centuries. Arizona State University's four campuses are located in the Salt River Valley on ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) Indian Communities, whose care and keeping of these lands allows us to be here today. ASU Library acknowledges the sovereignty of these nations and seeks to foster an environment of success and possibility for Native American students and patrons. We are advocates for the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies within contemporary library practice. ASU Library welcomes members of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh, and all Native nations to the Library.