More than 20 million digitized primary source items present almost limitless opportunities for both exciting discovery and serious frustration. Here is the first in a short series on finding primary sources online from the Library of Congress.
The Library’s online collections are not encyclopedic, so knowing their strengths will save time and help you to find primary sources. Most of the digitized items were created prior to 1923 or were created by someone working for the federal government as part of the job, and most of them document American history and culture.
Here are some shortcuts to locating primary sources from the Library of Congress quickly. Start at LOC.gov/teachers. Look at the list of Classroom Materials and select the classroom-ready sets of primary sources already assembled by the expert staff at the Library of Congress to save teachers time.
Primary source sets feature selected primary sources related to specific topics. Don’t miss Primary Sources by State for local resources related to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.
Presentations look across the American Memory collections to investigate curricular themes, including historical background. These are some favorites:
- Lyrical Legacy helps teachers explore American songs and poems from the online collections of the Library of Congress. For a closer look at this presentation, including teaching ideas, see A Historical Tour of Poetry and Song.
- For historical context and selected primary sources across eras, check out the American Memory Timeline. The blog post The American Memory Timeline: Finding Primary Sources from throughout U.S. History explores the main features of the timeline and ways to use it in the classroom.
- Fill up the Canvas explores the route of the Lewis and Clark expedition, using primary sources to develop the narrative of their experiences at specific points during the exploration.
The next post in this series, coming in a few weeks, will look at how to search in the collections. In the comments, tell us your favorite shortcuts to finding primary sources from LOC.gov.