This guest post comes to us from Mary J. Johnson, an educational consultant to the Library of Congress.
In his June 1st post celebrating the beginning of the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog’s second year of publication, Stephen Wesson pointed out that for teachers and students the Library of Congress “represents a source of discovery and learning unlike any other.” Last week when I joined twenty-seven K-12 educators at the second of five 2012 Summer Teacher Institutes in Washington, D.C., I did indeed witness nonstop discovery and learning in a unique and awe-inspiring setting.
Early in the workshop, presenters introduced the Library of Congress website. Once participants began exploring on their own, some actually squealed in delight at their discoveries. Several teachers shared their “finds” with me. I predict that next school year’s curriculum projects will feature some of the primary source discoveries below:
- Lincoln and Douglas in a presidential footrace. Political cartoon lithograph, 1860.
- “The evolving nature of the Constitution.” Address by Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) on the occasion of the Bicentennial of the American Constitution from the Library of Congress “Creating the United States” exhibition.
- “Stand Back, Ladies!” Votes for Women Broadside, Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, 1897-1911.
- World Digital Library. A global partnership of cultural treasures.
- New York City – Cheap lodging-houses as nests of disease – A night scene in a “five-cent” den on Pearl Street. Wood engraving, 1882.
- Letter from Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States. Federalists Fragment During Partisan Presidential Campaign from the Library of Congress “Creating the United States” exhibition.
- War gardens victorious – Every war garden a peace plant.– National War Garden Commission. World War I poster, 1919.
All who shared a primary source discovery with me explained how they connected with each item. Sometimes they were looking for a curriculum connection; other times a personal interest drew them to a special source. Serendipity – one of the most enjoyable Library of Congress online experiences – also played a role.
One workshop participant sitting near me exclaimed, “I have goose bumps, I’m so excited! I had heard this letter existed, but I’d never seen it until now.” She had found her hometown mentioned in “Abraham Lincoln’s own handwriting” in an 1863 letter to Major General Henry Halleck outlining orders to General Rosencrans.
These primary sources are as varied as the personalities and motivations of the teachers in the Summer Teacher Institute, but each one connects in a personal way – the same kind of connection that makes learning meaningful for our students.
How would you use one of these primary sources in your own teaching situation? Have you also made exciting discoveries on the Library of Congress website? Can you give yourself the gift of free exploration time this summer? You’re sure to find the perfect primary source for you and your students! Let us know what you discover as you wander through the Library of Congress website.