Skip to main content

Primary Source Sets

The Minnesota Digital Library (MDL) Primary Source Sets are designed to help students develop critical thinking skills by exploring a variety of topics related to Minnesota’s history and culture. Using both primary and secondary sources, these sets bring together resources in new ways to help students better understand historic events in their context.

Drawing materials from libraries, archives, and museums across Minnesota, these sets use letters, photographs, advertisements, oral histories, postcards, newsletters, speeches, and more. Each set includes a topic overview, ten to twenty primary sources from the MDL collection, links to related resources, and a section called “Think Like a Historian” which offers discussion questions and classroom activities. We invite educators and researchers to use these primary source sets in their teaching and learning.

Church of the Holy Communion, St. Peter, Minnesota

Format Highlight: Cabinet Cards

Learn about the history of cabinet photographs.

Florence Stork and her brother

Format Highlight: Carte de Visites

Learn about the history and significance of Carte de Visite images, an early photographic format.

Union Depot, Duluth, Minnesota

Format Highlight: Cyanotypes

Learn about the history and significance of cyanotypes, an early photographic technique.

Aerial bridge, Duluth

Format Highlight: Postcards

This primary source set provides a brief overview of the history of postcards.

View in the dells of St. Croix River, Minnesota

Format Highlight: Stereographs

Learn about the history and significance of stereograph images, a common photographic format.

Hilma Berglund writing in her diary New

Hilma Berglund and the Weavers Guild of Minnesota

Meet Hilma Berglund, the first president of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.

District 43 Country School

Laura Ingalls Wilder's On the Banks of Plum Creek

Explore some of the themes and ideas laid out in Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiographical novel.

Valley of the St. Peters, Minnesota

Seth Eastman: Depictions of Native American Life

Seth Eastman is known primarily for his depictions of daily life among the Dakota and Ojibwa tribes.

Sinclair Lewis at the door to his home in Duluth, 1944

Sinclair Lewis in Duluth

Read letters written by Sinclair Lewis about his house, work, and experiences while living in Duluth in the 1940s.

Main Street, Starbuck, Minnesota

Sinclair Lewis's Main Street

Explore some of the themes and ideas laid out in Sinclair Lewis's masterpiece of American literature.