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Using Primary Sources to Explore Historic Events: Library of Congress Story Maps

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Image of a compass rose from a map of Los Angeles as it appeared in 1871.
Compass Rose from Los Angeles as it appeared in 1871. Women’s University Club of Los Angeles, 1929.

What in the world is a story map? Does it have to do with geography?

A story map provides a unique way to explore events or topics through the use of narrative, photographs, sound, and interactive maps. They allow users to study events in different ways, and put the Library’s collections in conversation with one another in ways they might not if studied independently from one another.

Library of Congress staff have created a variety of story maps covering a number of different topics. See how the roots of Instagram may reach back to a photographic society from the 1860’s. Learn how prickly pear blood was used by the indigenous peoples of Mexico to create red dye. Explore one pilot’s experience of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Study the life of Susie King Taylor, the first African American nurse in the Civil War. And see how maps helped change people’s views of the world. Learn more from a number of blog posts about the creation of the story maps.

These interactive maps also provide students with different learning styles the opportunity to learn about an event or topic using diverse materials that supplement textual resources.

  • Share a story map with students. Ask what they feel was left out. What would they add to enhance the story or make it more accessible to other students?
  • Share the blog post about a particular story map with your students. What did they learn about the process of creating the story map and how the author narrowed down the resources available to create a story map that helped them provide information for users? How might they use the techniques the authors used to help them when they are doing research projects?
  • Encourage students to use Library of Congress primary sources to create their own story map on a topic of interest.

How would you use story maps with your students? Let us know in the comments.

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