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Catholic Research: Primary Sources

This guide is designed to serve as a starting point for research in Catholicism. The resources featured here are primarily open access resources, except where noted.

Copley Library Archives and Special Collections

Copley Library holds several primary source documents, including the Catholic Directory (both the large official directory and the smaller directories of the Diocese of San Diego) and the Southern Cross newspaper. The Southern Cross is the official newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego. Copley has archives of the newspaper dating to 1957.

These resources are not available digitally, but are available for researchers who make arrangements with our Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, Diane Maher (

St. Ansgar’s Bulletin

The bulletin of the St. Ansgar's Scandinavian Catholic League, published continuously from 1910 through 2010, contains news about the Catholic Church in the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Denark, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland) and about Catholics in the United States of Scandinavian descent. All one-hundred years of the bulletin can be downloaded for free by clicking on the 'Download PDF" link from the St. Ansgar's homepage.

Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA)

“The CRRA is a nonprofit membership alliance of institutions collaborating to deliver projects and services in support of its mission "to provide enduring global access to Catholic research resources in the Americas." Our immediate focus is creating access to those rare, unique, and uncommon research materials which are held by libraries and archives in North America.”

The Catholic Portal is a means to search the unique collections held by CRRA members in archives, special collections, and seminary libraries. The Portal gives researchers access to the valuable archival material that is essential to Catholic research, but which may not be otherwise accessible if not in person. Full text for a growing number of items is available, but researchers should focus on informative bibliographic entries.

The Portal contains links to a number of subject guides for specific research areas within Catholicism, as well as several on the Portal itself.  

Selected CRRA Member digital collections are also available through the site. 

American Catholic History Classroom

The American Catholic History Classroom is a primary document site from the Catholic University of America. The contents are continuously updated. Each site within the larger site contains primary source documents, images, and accompanying text written by researchers and educators to give context to the primary sources.

Catholic Periodical Index

From the digital library of Villanova University, this is the digitized first volume (so far) of the Catholic Periodical Index. The full index is 13 volumes, 1930-1966.

International Mission Photography Archive

The International Mission Photography Archive is hosted by the University of Southern California. The Archive offers historical images from Protestant and Catholic missionary collections in Britain, Norway, Germany and the United States. The photographs, which range in time from the middle of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, offer a visual record of missionary activities and experiences in Africa, China, Madagascar, India, Papua-New Guinea and the Caribbean.”

Cooperative Digital Resources Initiatives (CDRI)

From the American Theological Library Association and the Association of Theological Schools, the Cooperative Digital Resources Initiative (CDRI) provides access to over 14,000 digital images provided by member libraries. Images include woodcuts, photographs, slides, papyri, coins, maps, postcards, manuscripts, lithographs, art, and icons, and cover an incredible variety of subject areas within religion and theology.

National Institute for Newman Studies (NINS)

A nonprofit research center affiliated with Duquesne University, the National Institute for Newman Studies (NINS) includes the Newman Research Library at the Gailliot Center for Newman Studies in Pittsburgh; the Newman Reader, the digitized works of Cardinal Newman; a scholarship program; the Newman Studies Journal; and a digital archive of Cardinal Newman’s handwritten documents, located at the Birmingham Oratory, UK, a project that is in progress. 

Catholica Collection

The Catholica Collection from Villanova University makes available digital content of Catholic materials including books, journals, papers, and manuscripts dealing with the Roman Catholic Church in general, and in particular works created or published in the Americas. Much of the digitalized content comes from physical works made available from Villanova’s Digital Partners.