Architecture offers a unique entry point for better understanding a historical era. Early in my career as a museum educator, I worked with professional architects and engineers to teach middle and high school students. From these experts, I learned valuable techniques for teaching with architectural drawings and photographs.
Primary sources about snow and snow-related activities can be a great starting point for studying weather, comparing current winter pastimes to those of the past, and even studying clothing and snow-removal equipment.
Is a newspaper a primary source? A political cartoon? A map? A lithograph? Is an excerpt in a textbook a primary source? How about a digitized facsimile? All of these questions came up during the Library of Congress Summer Teacher Institutes.
The first time I tried facilitating a primary source activity during my post-graduate museum education studies, I only had to guide my peers’ analysis of a single artifact for five minutes. Yet so much of what I learned from this experience later proved invaluable to me when teaching with primary sources “for real.”
Primary sources from the online collections of the Library of Congress can be powerful instructional tools. Analyzing these photos, films, maps, and audio recordings can help students engage with content, build their critical thinking skills, and construct knowledge.
What’s the most frustrating part of teaching with primary sources? They’re often incomplete and have little context. What’s the most rewarding part of teaching with primary sources? They’re often incomplete and have little context.