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Make Local Connections with Primary Sources from Your State

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This primary source highlight updates an earlier article written by Anne Savage, now retired from the Library of Congress.

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

Did you know the Library’s website for teachers offers a selection of primary sources from your home state? You can find these rich historic artifacts and cultural materials by entering your state’s name in the classroom materials search box.

Sample search for the state of Ohio

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.

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 ask students to 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’s guides to help students examine these primary sources further.  Older students can search the Library’s collections for more primary sources from your state. The link in Additional Resources at the end of each set is a great starting place for further exploration – use the facets in the left column to refine the results by format, date, location, and more.

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

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