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STS 301 : Technology & Culture

Primary Sources Online

Primary Sources for STS

When you're looking for primary sources in STS, think carefully about what you're looking for to determine the best place to start. Are you looking for:

  • Journal articles published by participants who created or used the technology?
  • Popular press articles reporting on the technology?
  • Personal papers, diaries, memoirs, or letters of individuals who used the technology?
  • Advertisements for the technology?
  • Artifacts or physical examples of the technology, or photographs or video of folks using it? 

What you're looking for will affect where you look, and while some sources may be difficult to find (like uncollected personal papers), others may be surprisingly easy (like published journal articles).

Remember that museums and historical societies often have digital collections of documents and artifacts that can be accessed online. 

Historical Advertising Sources

Advertisements can give you a special window into technology and culture.You can find ad sources on the web, but you can also browse physical copies of some of our journals.

Ad*Access is an online archive from Duke University whihch provides scans of ads from about 1911-1957. Ads focus on beauty and hygiene, radio, televsion, transportation, and World War II.

Emergence of Advertising in America is also from Duke, and takes the focus back to 1850-1920. Search or browse by company, product, date, and more.

Medicine and Madison Avenue covers medical advertisements from 1850-1920.

Adflip a database of ads from the 1940s to the present. Requires a subscription for full access, but what is generally available should be a good starting point. Browse only-no search available.

Browse journals with long runs at Collins Library, too. Search the catalog for a title of your choice, or start with one of these possibilities:

  • Nature 1912-present in print; 1869-1984 in microform. A great place to browse for instrumentation advertising.
  • Life Available from 1936-1972 in print at Collins in the Print Journals room on the lower level; images from Life magazine are available via the LIFE Photo Archive hosted by Google
  • Time 1923-present available in print and microform at Collins; advertising aimed at the general public.

Note: If you're looking at historical magazines online, be sure to check whether full pages are scanned and whether ad material is included. You'll have a better chance of finding ads when pages are images or PDFs.