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Concordia University Texas Archival Collection: Using Primary and Secondary Sources

Online archives

Using Primary Sources

Students, genealogists, and other researchers use a variety of sources in exploring their topics. Primary source documents can give an immediate sense of what their authors saw and felt, without the interpretations of scholars or editors. The online archives at Concordia University Texas provide eyewitness accounts of building a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod school for boys in the early 20th century. Primary sources, such as the 1930 letter from Concordia professor Martin Neeb, offer first-hand testimony of life in Austin, Texas, for people who "formally accept[ed] the call" to serve at the school then called the Lutheran Concordia College. Primary source documents require readers to form their own opinions about authors and their accounts of events. When using primary sources, readers can ask themselves questions such as:  What was the author's point of view?  Are these accounts biased or fair? What can I learn about the topic that will help me better understand these events? Using primary sources brings readers into very close contact with historical events and the people who recorded them.

Other helpful resources

Suggested resources for Lutheran, Austin, and Texas history are listed below. In addition, databases available through Concordia University Texas provide access to articles and other information from a wide range of sources. Some suggested search terms for researching Concordia University Texas are "Texas German Community," "Texas Lutherans," and "Lutheran Church Missouri Synod."

Resources for K-12 teachers

The following are a selection of resources to help incorporate primary sources, such as Concordia's archives, into the classroom.

What is a Primary Source?

The Concordia archival documents and images available through the Portal to Texas History are primary sources. Primary sources are defined as the direct evidence of a time and place that you are studying – for example, documents, objects, or oral histories. Primary sources are created by eyewitnesses to or participants in an event or historical moment. The letters of Rev. R. Osthoff, whose signature is pictured at left, describe the founding of Concordia Lutheran College. Osthoff was an eyewitness to Concordia's history, and his extensive correspondence is a rich primary resource for historians.

Other primary sources included in Concordia's online archival collection are:

  • Photographs and portraits
  • Correspondence with faculty, Board of Control, national LCMS office, builders and architects, and the City of Austin
  • Faculty minutes
  • Bank records and statements
  • Board of Control reports
  • Programs from musical performances
  • Scrapbooks and yearbooks
  • Contractors' construction bids

 

This 1947 program from a musical performance is a primary source.

What is a Secondary Source?

Secondary sources interpret or analyze primary sources. These sources are a step removed from the event being described--they are not necessarily written by eyewitnesses. Scholarly articles and books are secondary sources that may include images, quotations, or other primary source materials in their analysis. David Zersen's Concordia on the Move (2013), is a history book that draws on primary sources from the Concordia archives. His book, a secondary source, analyzes archival materials and uses them to describe the institution's history.

An earlier history is Dr. Henry Studtmann's Concordia of Texas From the Beginning (1977). This secondary source draws on Synod records in its description of Concordia's history.

All materials copyright Concordia University Texas. Written permission to publish or display reproductions of materials held by Concordia University Texas must be secured from Concordia as owner of the physical property. For more information, please contact library@concordia.edu.