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Latin American & Iberian Studies Subject Guide

Tips to find UCSB archival collections!

Primary Sources

Primary Sources are documentary evidence of events as remembered by the people that experienced. There are a wide variety of sources that can be label "primary" such as:

Poster to celebrate 2nd Lechon Celebration

  • Artwork (painting, sculptures, pottery, posters)
  • Diary, memories, and autobiographies
  • Interviews in a newspaper or magazine
  • Letters
  • Performance (like a play or a ballet or a flash mob)
  • Poem and other types of literature (novels, short stories, fables, etc.)
  • Treaty and other legal documents that document decisions such as bills of sales, wills, etc. 


Sometimes, a secondary source (a source that analyzes primary sources to understand why a phenomenon happened such as scholarly articles published in academic journals, research books, biographies, textbooks, etc.) can be treated as a primary source depending on the context of your research. For example, if you are doing a research study about how biology teaching has changed through time, then biology textbooks are considered a primary source. 



Primary sources can be found both in libraries and archives. Many have been digitized and accessible online while others are only accessible by visiting an archive or getting a print book at the library or through Interlibrary Loan. Explore the tabs on this page to see where and how you can find and access these sources!

Caption: "2nd Annual Pilipino Lechon celebration" (1978) Collection: Kearny Street Workshop Archives, at UC Santa Barbara, Library, Department of Special Research Collections. Source: Calisphere
The UCSB Library, as well as the rest of the UC campuses, hold rich collections of archival materials from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia. Some collections are accessible physically at UCSB Archives and Special Collections while others can be accessed online through the Online Archive of California (where you can search for finding aids) and Calisphere, the portal to digital collections from California's libraries, archives, and museums.


Tip: Some books are considered primary sources. To find them, check out the Finding Articles, Books and More tab for instructions!


  • Finding Aids: Its a guide for an archival collection. It includes an explanation of the historical background of the collection; information about the content (dates of coverage, subjects, creators, individuals or events represented, etc.), how it has been organized and an inventory of the content and where it is located (boxes and folders). You use it to find materials that you want to see and/or request from an archive
  • Surrogate(s) or facsimiles: Copy of item from a collection that are made available either as a print or electronic format. For example, Calisphere offers access to electronic surrogates of papers, photographs and/or movies from many archival collections housed across the state of California. 
Not all archival collection is available online, so it is important to check the finding aids first to determine if the archive have what you want to access.
Newspapers are a type of primary source. Many archives have newspaper collections, and some of them have even been digitized and may available online. Depending on the context, the time that the news was published, and the type of account (chronicles, editorials, etc.) a newspaper account can be considered both a primary and/or a secondary source. Check with your professor before using these resources.


As any primary source used for historical research, be aware of the strengths (first witness accounts) and weakness (bias, forgetfulness, sensationalism) of this type of source.

Historical Newspapers Databases:

If you are looking for newspapers reports about Latin American and Iberian countries in the US main presses, check our newspapers databases!
The Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity. Below is a selection of several of the series available on the site that focuses on Latin America, the Caribbean, and Spain. Visit their site to see the whole list.
Sample of Latin American and Caribbean Series:
This is a selection of archival online resources available through UCSB Library. For more online resources available on the Web, check out the tab labelled, Finding Spanish & Portuguese Primary Resources!