In the Collections of the World’s Largest Library, We Find the World’s Largest . . .

This post is by Lee Ann Potter, Director of Educational Outreach at the Library of Congress.

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting the keynote address at the 35th History and Social Science Teachers’ Conference at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Il.  On my way there, after flying into Indianapolis, I was driving west on I-70, and saw a sign promoting the World’s Largest Wind Chimes in the community of Casey, IL.  Had it not been getting dark and starting to rain, I would have stopped to see them.  I enjoy such attractions and appreciate the way communities differentiate themselves with them.

Because the Library of Congress is The Largest Library in the World, just for fun, I did a search on “world’s largest” on and was tickled to find a photograph of the World’s Largest Bike, in Sparta, Wisconsin, a WPA poster for Buckingham Fountain on Chicago’s lake front, described as the “world’s largest and most beautiful illuminated fountain,” a photograph of Vulcan, the world’s largest cast iron statue in Birmingham, Alabama, and many others.

If you are looking for a primary source analysis activity that presents many possibilities for speculation, and may inspire research projects related to local history, you might use these images or others from the collection!  Share them with students and lead a class discussion with questions such as: What do these items have in common?  Why do you think individuals or communities chose to promote them?  Are you aware of other, similar attractions?  Do such attractions always feature over-sized items?  If not, what other superlatives capture attention and imagination?

The Library’s primary source analysis tool includes prompts specifically for photographs and prints that can help your students look for details and refine their questions about these larger-than-life constructions.

We’d love to hear about more of these!  If you live in a community that boasts of being home to the “largest,” “greatest,” “most,” or other superlative attraction, please tell us about it!  And we’d love to hear how and when the attraction came to be!

Disability Awareness Month: Four Questions for Eric Eldritch of the Library of Congress

Last year we presented a blog post on Deaf Culture for Deaf Awareness Month. One of the co-authors was Eric Eldritch. In honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month, we asked Eric several questions about his work helping the Library of Congress promote an understanding of people with disabilities as citizens, contributors and employees in a diverse […]

Encouraging Student Interest in the Economic Context of the Constitution with Continental Currency

In the September 2014 issue of Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies, our “Sources and Strategies” article focused on the economic challenges facing the young United States at the time of the Constitutional Convention. We suggested that continental currency might ignite student interest in the subject.

Educator Webinar: Tapping the Power of Teaching with Visual Images

On Tuesday, September 23, at 7 PM ET, education experts from the Library will offer a webinar that will engage participants in a model photograph analysis activity, facilitate a discussion about the power of teaching with visual images, and demonstrate how to find visual images from the Library of Congress.

Throughout the year, the Library will be hosting educator webinars every other Tuesday at 7:00 ET focusing on a variety of instructional strategies for using primary sources in instruction. The 2014 schedule and information about joining the webinar is now available from

The Civil Rights History Project: Primary Sources and Oral History

History is most fascinating when we feel connected to the people who lived in the past. One way to pique student interest is by using primary sources from the Library of Congress — letters, photographs, and oral histories — that document real people’s lives. The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress recently launched the Civil Rights History Project, a digitized collection of interviews with active participants in the Civil Rights movement and essays about the movement.

Share “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” Using Primary Sources

Last year the Educational Outreach Team provided a collection of primary sources that documented what we did on our summer vacation. This was such a popular post that we decided to share how we spent our summer vacations using primary sources. Enjoy this year’s adventures and hopefully get some ideas on how you might incorporate primary sources to help you learn more about your students and their interests.

Living the Dream: Reflections on a Year as Library of Congress Teacher in Residence

In my first blog post as Teacher in Residence, I set a number of goals: to connect primary sources to literature, to create research questions to advance inquiry, and to foster library skills. I was able to meet these goals in a number of ways and to reach out to teachers and librarians with approaches to working with primary sources and teaching research skills.