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Teachers explore Library of Congress primary sources. (Stephen Wesson/Library of Congress)

Primary Sources by State: Making Local Connections

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For the most current information about these resources, please visit this updated article:

This primary source highlight comes to us from Anne Savage of the Library of Congress.

Hook your students with historic sights and sounds that are close to home: Primary Sources by State.

Library of Congress Primary Sources by State

Did you know the Library’s Web site for teachers offers a sampling of primary sources from your home state or territory, plus the District of Columbia?  You can find these rich historic artifacts and cultural materials by using the clickable map of the United States at Primary Sources by State.

Each set of primary sources brings together a dozen or so original artifacts from across the Library’s digitized collections that document the history and culture of a state or territory. You’ll find everything from bird’s-eye maps to family snapshots, from historic films to recordings of state songs. As with all of the Library’s primary source sets for teachers, all images are available in an easy-to-print PDF format, and audio files and movies can be used online or downloaded. .

As we discussed in Part 1 of our Selecting Primary Sources blog post, one thing to consider when selecting a primary source is to choose something with content that will interest your students.  Using a recognizable primary source from your home state is a surefire way to engage your students from the start.  For example, students looking at a bird’s-eye map might find a place they’ve visited, and begin to ask questions about what has changed since the map was made, and why.

Teaching Ideas

  • Ask each student to choose the one item from your state or territory that interests them the most, and explain why they chose it (i.e., what hooked them).
  • Begin a state history unit by displaying primary sources from your state; then have students share what they think they already know about each item.  What do they want to learn more about?
  • Compare and contrast primary sources from your state and a state from another part of the country. Have students identify differing points of view as they reinforce their knowledge about their own home state.

Additional Resources

You can extend any of the above activities by using the Library’s primary source analysis tool and teacher guides to help students examine these primary sources further.  Older students can search the Library’s digital collections or Prints and Photographs collections for more primary sources from your state.

Take a look at primary sources from your state or territory.  What’s one item you think would hook the students in your classroom?

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  1. Can’t wait to explore further!
    What an excellent resource. Many thanks for this help in mining the treasures of the LOC.

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