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Chicago Style: Citing Primary Sources

A guide to using Chicago Style (17th ed.) for references and bibliographies. This guide covers both Author-Date and Notes/Bibliography system of citation.

Citing Primary Sources from an Archive or Museum

Chicago Citation for Primary Source Materials

Since most researchers working with primary sources, like those found in archives or museums, are from the humanities disciplines, these materials are more typically cited using the Chicago Manual of Style Notes/Bibliography format. Therefore, the examples presented on this page have been created using the rules outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style Notes/Bibliography system of citation. To determine how to cite primary sources in another citation style see the larger guide for all Citation Styles

The examples below reflect the most common sources and circumstances encountered by researches in Rollins College Archives. For more information on how to cite other types of primary sources (for example, historic newspapers) please refer to the rules laid our in the Chicago Manual of Style Online

The examples below show both a note entry [N] (which could be either a footnote or endnote) and a bibliographic entry [B]

Letter or Memo

The note for a citation to an unpublished letter starts with the name of the letter writer, followed by the name of the recipient. Given names may be omitted if the identities of sender and recipient are note present within the text. The word letter is usually omitted - that is, if understood - but other forms of communication (telegram, memorandum) are specified. Take notice that the bibliographic form for a letter cites the entire collection, which is appropriate when more than one item from a collection is cited in the text.

N:  5. Willard Wattles to Hamilton Holt, 25 January 1940, Willard Wattles Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

B:  Wattles, Willard. Papers. Archives and Special Collections. Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

To cite a published letter, memorandum, or similar communication in a published collection, begin with the names of the sender and the recipient (in that order), followed by a date and sometimes the place where the communication was prepared.  The word letter is unnecessary, but other forms, such as reports or memoranda, should be specified.  The title of the collection is given in the usual form for a book which is italicized.

N:  6. Mary Wollstonecraft to George Blood, 25 August 1786, in Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, ed. Ralph M. Wardle (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979), 111-112.

B:  Wollstonecraft, Mary. Mary Wollstonecraft to George Blood, 25 August 1786. In Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, ed. Ralph M. Wardle, no. 37. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979.

Manuscript or Typescript

Full identification of most unpublished material usually requires giving the title and date of the item, series title (if applicable), name of the collection, and name of the depository. Except for placing the cited item first, there is no general agreement on the sequence of the remaining elements in the citation. Whatever sequence is adopted should be used consistently throughout the paper and as much information as possible should be included in the citation in an effort for transparency. However, sometimes archival resources are missing date, author information, or titles; in those cases the researcher must use due diligence in created as full a citation as possible. 

N:  2.  Dick Banning manuscript, Rex E. Beach Papers, Box 3, Folder 10-12, Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

B:  Beach, Rex E. Papers. Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

Photos and Art

Titles of paintings, drawings, statues, and other works of art are italicized, whether the titles are original, added by someone other than the artist, or translated. Titles of photographs are enclosed in quotation marks. Art works typically require dimensional information and media type in the citation whereas archival photographs do not. 

Photograph

N:  4.  "Portrait of Richard Burton", photograph. Minneapolis: Sweet Studios, c1912. From Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida: Jessie Belle Rittenhouse papers.

B:  "Portrait of Richard Burton", photograph. Minneapolis: Sweet Studios, c1912. From Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida: Jessie Belle Rittenhouse papers.

Art Work

N: 1. Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, oil on canvas, 9½ × 13″ (24.1 × 33 cm), Museum of Modern Art, New York.

B:  Dali, Salvador. The Persistence of Memory. 1931. Oil on canvas, 9½ × 13″ (24.1 × 33 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Unpublished Thesis or Dissertation

For an unpublished thesis or dissertation include the following: the title, the kind of thesis, the academic institution, and the date. Like the publication date of a book, these are enclosed in parentheses in a note but not in a bibliography or reference list. The word unpublished is unnecessary. 

N:  6. Lisa Stronski, "Exploding the canon and illuminating the spitfires : the representation of women in Grimms' fairy tales" (honors thesis, Rollins College, 2002), 56-75.

B:  Mould, Kimberly Thomlinson. "A Portrait in Black and White : The Ideal Woman's Club and the Woman's Club of Winter Park" master's thesis, Rollins College, 2000.