The American Memory Timeline: Finding Primary Sources from throughout U.S. History

This is a guest post from the Library’s Danna Bell-Russel.

The American Memory Timeline from the Library of Congress

Looking for primary sources relating to a specific period in United States history? Try using the American Memory Timeline from the Library of Congress. The Timeline is an online presentation that provides a comprehensive look through U.S. history using primary sources from the Library’s collections.

The American Memory Timeline is simple to use. On the Timeline home page you can choose from a list of specific time periods, including the American Revolution, the Rise of Industrial America, and the Great Depression and World War II. Click on one of the links and you will find a brief overview of the time period with highlights on specific events. The overview is a great way to quickly learn about the time period. Next to the overview are links to specific topics.

A broadside of “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks. Found in the Postwar United States section of the American Memory Timeline.

Click on the topic of interest to access another overview on that particular topic and links to primary sources on that specific topic. If you click on a text-based primary source you will see a transcript of the item. To access the digitized item you can click on the link on the page. There is also a link to the American Memory collection where the item can be found. If the item from the Timeline is helpful, you may wish to visit the collection and see if there are other items of interest.  The Timeline also includes links to images, lyrics to songs, and maps.

Teaching Ideas

  • Use the collection of materials to spur discussion on a specific topic or for analysis activities.
  • Have students look for other materials that might supplement what is already on the Timeline.
  • Are there topics missing from the Timeline? Students can think about what topics are missing from the Timeline and locate items that could be used to highlight these and other subjects. They could also write the overview paragraph for that particular section of the Timeline.
  • Teachers can supplement the information found on the timeline with materials from the Library’s Themed Resources and Primary Source Sets. We’ll tell you more about those in upcoming blog entries.
  • There are lots of other timelines provided as part of the features found in the Library’s online collections and online exhibitions. Having trouble finding them? Use the Library’s Ask a Librarian service for assistance.

Have you used the American Memory Timeline in your own teaching? How can these primary sources help your students see history from a different point of view?

2 Comments

  1. Cheryl Lynn Best
    September 22, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I created this as a timeline in my classroom. We add to it as we learn a something new in history or at anytime! We keep this as an on going tool to remind us where we are in time.

  2. Stuart Bondsman
    May 28, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Looks like a useful tool.

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