F&M College Library

CNX 258: Object Lessons

Primary Sources

Primary sources help you to identify and evaluate your object. They are usually firsthand accounts of the object itself, in some way. 

You can usually find out: 

  • object material and construction
  • condition 
  • function
  • manufacturer's/maker's marks
  • production techniques
  • rarity
  • value

Examples of primary sources include: 

  • your object itself
  • an item record from EBay
  • entries regarding your object from Auction Catalogs
  • video clips featuring your object from places like PBS Antiques Roadshow or YouTube

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are usually scholarly writings about your particular object, where the scholar provides additional context, interpretation, and analysis of the object.

You can find secondary sources through library resources, like: 

Tertiary Sources

Tertiary sources are excellent for getting a broad overview of your object, in terms of its design, historical context, manufacturer history, etc. Ideally, you should be consulting many different tertiary sources repeatedly, throughout your research. 

Examples of tertiary sources include: 

Primary/Secondary/Tertiary Sources