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Primary Sources

A selective guide to finding primary sources at USC and beyond

USC Libraries' Special Research Collections house a wide variety of archival materials on a broad range of subjects.  Our holdings are especially strong in the areas of:  

  • The history of USC (University Archives)
  • Southern California regional history and California politics (Regional History Collections)
  • The exile experience in Southern California (archival collections of the Feuchtwanger Memorial Library)
  • Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American and Latino Studies (Boeckmann Center for Iberian & Latin American Studies)
  • Holocaust studies (USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive)
  • Public welfare in California (California Social Welfare Archives)
  • LGBTQ history (ONE Archives)
  • Cinema and television (Cinematic Arts Library)
  • Art and architecture (Helen Topping Architecture and Find Arts Library)

 Special Collections also holds archival materials on American literature, dance, music history, and science and engineering.

 To browse USC's archival collections use the Archives at USC portal

Founded by Emeritus Professor of History Doyce Nunis in 1977, the Regional Cultural History Collection was originally conceived as a repository for the papers of outstanding USC alumni and outstanding Southern Californians, with a particular emphasis on political figures. Dr. Nunis ceased to be actively involved in the collection in 1985.  Curator Gary Bryson was appointed as his successor, and remained for approximately three years, leaving in 1989.  The name of the collection was modified in 1989.  Dace Taube took  charge of the Collection from 1989-2016.

The papers of several elected officials were acquired, among them:

In addition to elected officials’ papers, the now-named Regional History Collection has grown to include a range of materials such as:

Visual materials have rounded out the scope of the Center’s collections and now include three notable photographic collections:

  • the Los Angeles Examiner
  • the California Historical Society
  • the “Dick” Whittington collection

The Regional History Collection now contains close to two million images documenting one hundred years of Southern California history. Many of these images have appeared in books, documentaries, class presentations and wall decorations; currently many of them are being incorporated into the USC Digital Library.

California suffragettes. Photo courtesy of USC Libraries.

The Boeckmann Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies was established in 1985 in Doheny Memorial Library, with generous support from Herbert F. Boeckmann II and his wife, Jane Boeckmann, and encouragement from faculty with related instructional and research interests. The Boeckmann Center serves as a link between the University Libraries' collections and research and information services and the scholarly activities of faculty and students in the areas of Iberian, Latin American and Chicano and Latino studies. The Center's archives include materials of the Central American Research Institute (CARIN) and the Cuban California Archive, supported by members of the Patronato Jose Marti of Los Angeles. 

Visit the Latin American Studies Research Guide for more information 

The University Archives is the repository for the records of enduring value officially made or received by the University of Southern California, and for other materials of historical value related to the functions of the University.   

Please visit the University Archives Research Guide for more information.


University Avenue and Bovard Hall. Photo courtesy of USC Archives, USC Libraries

The Feuchtwanger Memorial Library houses the personal materials of Lion Feuchtwanger, including correspondence, manuscripts and photographs, as well as archives on other German-speaking exiles including Marta Feuchtwanger, Ludwig Marcuse, Hanns Eisler, Felix Guggenheim and Heinrich Mann.

Lion Feuchtwanger ca. 1909. Photo courtesy of Feuchtwanger Memorial Library, USC Libraries.

Visit the Feuchtwanger Memorial Library Reseach Guide for more information.

The California Social Welfare Archives (CSWA) was organized in 1979 to collect materials that chronicle the history and diversity of social welfare in California, with an emphasis on Southern California. The archive contains correspondence, minutes, memoranda, annual reports, research papers, conference proceedings, oral histories and newsletters of California social welfare and related organizations that have reflected in their programs the development of social welfare programs, problems, issues and services in the state. It also contains the personal papers of social workers, and social work lay or civic leaders who participated in the emergence of social programs, public or private. Included in the collection are documents illustrating the roles of philanthropic groups and, especially, those depicting the history of marginalized groups as providers and consumers of mainstream social welfare services, as well as their experience in developing and using their own community services through, for example, benevolent societies and religious groups.

Notable archival collections include:


Among the notable collections of personal papers of American writers are:

  • Poets Garden, a group of women writers and reformers in Los Angeles, who gathered for many years (1930s-40s) to talk about literary and spiritual matters under the guidance of Ruth LePrade; the collection consists of the group's publications, letters, diaries, and memorabilia as well as materials relating to the poet Edwin Markham (1852-1940) and the labor and socialist activist Eugene Debs. 
  • Rupert Hughes, screenwriter, essayist and popular magazine journalist (1930s-50s), and uncle of Howard Hughes. The American Literature Collection contains his research files, drafts and typescripts. 
  • Kenneth Rexroth, the San Francisco poet and fringe Beat figure, who in later years turned to Eastern religion and translated Japanese/Chinese poetry. It is for this later period that USC's collection includes manuscripts, correspondence, and personal files. 
  • Charles Bukowski is represented by typescripts, galleys, and extensive correspondence for his work in the 1970s and early 80s.
  • Lawrence Lipton's papers contain correspondence; typescripts; photographs; clippings; literary journals; tape recorded interviews, readings, and radio programs, and Lipton's archives for his "Radio Free America" column in the Los Angeles Free Press.
  • Peter Shneidre's papers document the activities of the small poetry press Illuminati Press and who published a number of small poetry periodicals as well as his work as a nationally published poet.

For a further discussion of California writers, see Writers of the Golden State.

Major holdings include the archives of:

Nicolas Remisoff, Stage design for Ruth Page's An American in Paris, 1936. Courtesy of USC Libraries.

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives is the largest repository of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) materials in the world. Founded in 1952, ONE Archives houses over two million archival items including periodicals, books, film, video and audio recordings, photographs, artworks, organizational records, and personal papers. ONE Archives has been a part of the University of Southern California Libraries since 2010. It is located approximately one mile north of the University Park Campus on West Adams Boulevard.

For more information view the ONE Archives Research Guide

Contact:  (213) 821-2771 or