Primary Source Literacy at USC Libraries & Beyond

Searching & Accessing Primary Sources in the USC Digital Library

Digital libraries are the culmination of advances in information technologies and the response to the expectations and needs of users in the 21st century. What makes digital libraries particularly unique is their ability to provide instant access to primary resources in dynamic ways from anywhere in the world. Digital libraries come in many forms and make available material in a variety of formats. Further, robust metadata and integration with other information systems provides stronger contextualization for collection items. This gives users the ability to see and experience primary sources in ways otherwise not possible. 

Spanning a wide range of visual media, the USC Digital Library offers digital images of drawings, illuminated manuscripts, maps, photographs, posters, prints, rare illustrated books, as well as audio and video recordings. Encompassing the subject strengths of the vast collections of the libraries at the University of Southern California, these materials represent the applied sciences, fine and decorative arts, history, performing arts, and social sciences. A portion of the images contained in the USC Digital Library come from the collections of collaborating institutions which, like USC, have valuable archival collections that are of interest to a wide range of people.

The list of digitized collections includes material from historical societies, other libraries, newspapers, as well as a host of material from the USC Libraries. Particular emphasis has been placed on materials related to Los Angeles and the Southern California Region, the Western United States and the Pacific Rim. The USC Digital Library continues to evolve as more visual collections are added, and navigation is enhanced. The collections in the USC Digital Library represent a small fraction of the USC Libraries’ overall visual holdings.

To provide you with some examples, please find descriptions for two of the many collections held in the USC Digital Library below:

Dance Heritage Video Archive
The Dance Heritage Video Archive is the largest video collection found in the USC Digital Library. The collection preserves culturally significant video recordings that document global and U.S. dance traditions, creative works by outstanding choreographers and performers, and performances that helped to advance the art form. This collection highlights performances and choreographies by notable artists such as Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and Anna Halprin. 

Los Angeles Examiner Photographs Collection, 1920-1961
The Los Angeles Examiner Photographs Collection consists of approximately 1.4 million prints and negatives from the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper. It was a daily newspaper, published in the afternoon on weekdays (Herald-Express) and in the morning on weekends (Examiner). Almost every event and individual receiving news coverage in Los Angeles during the period late 1920’s to 1961 is represented in the collection.

The video below shows you how to perform basic searches in USC Libraries' Digital Library. Please watch:

The video below shows you how to perform advanced searches in USC Libraries' Digital Library. Please watch:

The USC Digital Library includes information about copyright and use of USC Digital Library materials in the descriptive information for each item in our collections. We make every effort to ensure that the information is accurate and clear. Some materials in the USC Digital Library collections may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.), or by the Copyright Laws of other countries. In order to keep access to USC Digital Library collections free and open for everyone, we request that all USC Digital Library visitors respect the copyright, licensing, use & ordering information made available alongside of each item in our collections.

The video below shows you how to correctly cite and request permission to use materials from USC Libraries' Digital Library. Please watch:

Header Image: Letter from Frederick the Great to Voltaire. February 17, 1770. USC Libraries, Special Collections. 

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