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What’s New Online from the LOC? How to Bring It into Your Classroom

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The Library of Congress is always working to bring new collections of historical and cultural artifacts online, and to improve its current online collections. Here are just a few of the recent additions and updates that might be of use to teachers and students.

Cigar label, “El Biejo Onesto Abe Cigarros”, 1860

Abraham Lincoln Papers – This vast collection, which includes some of the most powerful documents in U.S. history, has been given a serious makeover. The items were rescanned to provide clearer images and include transcriptions from the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox University, each of which can be viewed side by side with the original document. There is additional information on the creation of the Emancipation Proclamation, including a timeline of events, and links to the most frequently requested documents in the collection including the “blind memorandum” and his second inaugural address.

  • One unique item included in the collection is a cigar box label, written in Spanish, from Lincoln’s 1860 campaign. Students can consider why this campaign item was written in Spanish.
  • Also included in this collection are copies of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation released on September 22, 1862 and the final revised version released on December 30, 1862. Encourage students to review both versions and identify differences. Why do they think the document was changed between versions?

Chronicling America – During the last two months of 2017, staff added 342,873 new pages to this searchable collection of historic American newspapers, bringing the grand total of pages available online to 12,827, 554 pages. Many new entries, including Alaska’s Gold Rush, Anarchist Incidents, Harriet Tubman, the 1883 Krakatoa Volcano Eruption, and the 16th Amendment, have been added to Topics in Chronicling America. Students can compare articles on these and other subjects with information provided in their textbooks or other books. Encourage them to consider why the event is seen and described differently through the lens of history than it was at the time.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. 1885

Sanborn Maps – Have you and your students discovered these historic fire insurance maps of U.S. cities and towns? They offer great opportunities to study a neighborhood’s history and see change over time. Maps are available for 33 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and Mexico. Students can see how their neighborhood has changed or why places such as hospitals or churches were put in certain areas. Students may also compare the Sanborn maps to Panoramic Maps or some of the plat maps or city atlases for their community.

Presidential Papers – Did you know that the Library of Congress has the papers of sixteen presidents currently available online? The most recent addition are the  James K. Polk Papers. Most of the presidential collections include their diaries, speeches, correspondence, and occasionally personal notes to family and friends. Encourage students to choose one of the presidents with papers available online and read the letters relating to a specific event that took place during their presidency. What do their writings show about their thought processes and concerns? Search Chronicling America to see how the press responded to their actions.

To help students learn with primary sources, select questions from one of the Teacher’s guides.

What most excites you and your students about these new and updated collections? Let us know in the comments.


  1. A wonderful post with valuable resources for all teachers! Thank you!

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