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Major Collections Index

Major Online Collections of Primary Sources
Online Resources for Teaching Primary Source Analysis
Online Primary Source-Based Lesson Plans and Activities
Guide to Citing Primary Sources from an Online Archive


Major Online Collections of Primary Sources

The following is a list of comprehensive sites that offer a broad selection of primary sources for teaching a diverse range of topics. Most of these sites also offer sections of specific use to teachers, such as lesson plans or other student activities.

Ad*Access - Duke University Digital Scriptorium
http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/adaccess

Ad*Access is one of the collections of Duke University's Digital Scriptorim. It presents images and database information for over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955. Ad*Access concentrates on five main subject areas: Radio, Television, Transportation, Beauty and Hygiene, and World War II, providing a coherent view of a number of major campaigns and companies through images preserved in one particular advertising collection available at Duke University. These specific topics correlate with not only areas of popular interest, but also proven areas of interest among students, teachers and researchers. The ads can be viewed by subject or searched by either keyword (in headlines, product names etc.) or a set number of special features such as the presence of children or minorities or even coupons. Ads can, under fair use laws, be downloaded, printed and used for teaching or research. The site also includes a useful timeline of major historical events and facts to help contextualize the ads in the collection.

American Centuries - Memorial Hall Museum
www.memorialhall.mass.edu

This highly-acclaimed website makes available digital versions of over 1,800 historical objects and documents from the collection of the Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, MA. Although the focus of the collections is on New England, the materials tell broad and significant stories about American History more broadly conceived. The sources are searchable in a number of ways and all are annotated. There is also a feature "My Collection" which allows visitors to create their own online collection of objects and documents. The site also includes two exceptional online exhibits: 1) "Turns of the Centuries" presents information and materials related to a consistent set of historical themes at three points in time-the turns of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries; 2) "Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704" presents a range of sources and supplementary materials (including maps and timelines) focused on the events and meanings of the 1704 event.

The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Documents in Law, History and Government
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/avalon.htm

The Avalon Project is dedicated to providing access via the World Wide Web to primary source materials in the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government. The site offers over 3,500 full-text documents divided into five time periods-pre 18th century, 18th century, 19th century, 20th century and 21st century. Documents include colonial charters, state and federal constitutional and legal documents, treaties, and some presidential papers. Documents are also organized into groups focused on such topics as The American Revolution, Native Americans, Slavery, Cold War, and Soviet-American Diplomacy. Also includes some material related to European, medieval and Renaissance diplomatic history. Searching can be done by keyword or by category, making the search process quite simple.

American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library- Library of Congress
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/

A first-stop for finding American History primary source material on the web! American Memory, a major component of the Library of Congress' National Digital Library Program, is an online archive of over 8 million sources related to American history and culture from 1490 to the 20th century. Sources on American Memory are organized into over 120 multimedia collections and 150 specific websites, which include digitized documents, photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures, and text from the Library's rich American collections and, in some cases, from archives and libraries around the world. Identifying useable material is fairly easy because searching can be done by either collection or by keyword.

Digital Archive of American Architecture
http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/fa267

Here you will find approximately 1,500 drawings and other images of nearly 300 architecturally significant American buildings from the colonial times to the present. A wide variety of building types are represented: churches, public buildings, houses. Material from three World's Fairs can be found here as well, along with some European works for comparative purposes. Portions of 19th century design books have been included on this site. Materials are searchable by location, period, architect, building type and style.

Digital Classroom - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/index.html

An important resource. The Digital Classroom portion the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) site offers a wide range of source and resources for teachers and students of American history. On the "Teaching With Documents" area of the site http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/teaching_with_documents.html researchers will find reproducible copies of primary sources (along with teaching activities)- from the NARA collection- on topics correlated to the National History Standards and the National Standards for Civics and Government. Document sets are grouped by topic and are easy to access and use. NARA is an independent Federal agency that preserves United States history and oversees the management of all Federal records-a wide category which includes records of prison systems, infrastructure initiatives, immigration centers, taxes, and courts, among others. In addition to this wide set of materials, the collections also include the cornerstone documents of the government, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights.

Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920 - Duke University Digital Scriptorium
http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/eaa/

One of the collections of Duke University's Digital Scriptorium, this site presents over 9,000 images drawn from the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collection Library at Duke University. All relate to the emergence of advertising in America. Providing evidence of the emergence and evolution of advertising, the items on this site are organized into eleven categories, but are also searchable across categories. Also included is a timeline of advertising history and developments during the period covered by the collections.

Famous Trials
http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/ftrials.htm

Offers a wide range of materials related to 35 prominent American trials including the Salem Witch Trials, the Boston Massacre, Amistad, Johnson's impeachment, Sacco and Vanzetti and the My Lai courts martial. Each trial includes background information and a range of primary source documents related to it. On this site too, are biographies of some of America's most well-known attorneys and ideas for discussing Constitutional issues in classrooms. Links and bibliographies also available.

History Matters: The History Survey Course on the Web
http://historymatters.gmu.edu/

A superb and highly-respected resource for teachers and students in U.S. History survey courses; offers not only primary sources but source analysis tutorials and a rich set of links. Includes three centrally important sections: WWW. History offers a searchable list of and annotations for over 700 high quality websites; Many Pasts which contains over 1,000 primary sources covering the broad sweep of American History and represents a range of source types and Making Sense of Evidence which offers detailed, in depth, and interactive explorations into how historians analyze, interpret, and various types of sources including maps, letters, films and oral history. The final section of the three mentioned here is an unparalleled source for learning and teaching about primary source analysis and use! Each "tutorial" guides students-through readings, questions and examples- through the process of analyzing the source type at hand. Also in this section are audio interviews with leading scholars who share their own process of source analysis and interpretation.

Map Collections: 1500-2003 - Library of Congress
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/gmdhome.html

One of the many online collections of the Library of Congress's American Memory project, this interactive site, The collections is divided into 7 thematic categories including: Discovery and Exploration; Cities and Towns and Military Battles and Campaigns. Site offers and zooming option for looking at the maps upclose and, in addition to exploring the maps thematically, the collection can be searched by geographic location or keyword.

Our Documents
http://www.ourdocuments.gov/

As a cooperative effort among the National Archives and Records Administration, National History Day, and USA Freedom Corps, the Our Documents initiative explores and makes available the original versions of 100 milestone documents of American History. As a whole, the documents (which include such items as the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Louisiana Purchase Treaty (1803), Plessey v. Ferguson (1896), the Social Security Act ( 1935) and Aerial Photograph of Missiles in Cuba (1962), among others) aim to "reflect the diversity and unity" of the United States. Each of the documents is accompanied by an introductory/contextualizing essay and a transcript of the document. Digital technology allows site visitors to look closely at and move around the document simply by moving the mouse across it. Documents can be downloaded.

U.S. Historical Census Data Browser
http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/collections/stats/histcensus/

A wonderful resource for finding state and county data. Useful for tracking the population and economic history of the United States. Data is provided for the years 1790 - 1960 and is searchable by a wide range of variables. Some data sets can be displayed in map form, and information can be compared across years. Also valuable as a window into the changes in census data categories. A link to information on the history of the census is included on this website. Note: this site does not provide information about individuals.

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Online Resources for Teaching Primary Source Analysis

These sites offer a range of both materials and information useful for training students how to analyze and learn from primary sources

Classroom Activities - American Centuries
www.memorialhall.mass.edu/activities/index.html

This is a database of activities created by teachers and librarians for other teachers and librarians. Here you can find brief activities that are based on the objects and documents featured in Memorial Hall Museum's Digital Collection. Included in this database are some wonderful activities focused on analyzing and interpreting primary sources. Specific titles to look for include: "Interpreting Various Maps of the Same Town"; "Analyzing Historical Artifacts"; "Analyzing Historical Fiction"; "Artifact Exploration"; "A Grave Lesson".

Document Analysis Worksheets - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/lessons/analysis_worksheets/worksheets.html

Designed and developed by the staff at the National Archives and Records Administration, these worksheets provide guided questions to help students look at and make sense of a wide range of primary source material. Each of the following source types has a corresponding worksheet: Written Document, Photograph, Cartoon, Poster, Map, Artifact, Sound Recording and Motion Picture. While the worksheets can be used just as they are, they also offer teachers a valuable starting point for designing worksheets to use with a specific classroom activity.

History in the Raw - U. S. National Archives and Records Administration
http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/history_in_the_raw.html

This is a brief but thorough explanation-created by staff at the National Archives and Records Administration-of primary sources, an introduction to their place in historical thinking and research, and ideas about where to find them.

Introductory Activity: Introduction to Documents - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/introductory_activity.html

A brief activity-designed by the staff at the National Archives and Records Administration-to introduce the idea of source (in this case, document) analysis to students.

The Learning Page - Library of Congress
http://memory.loc.gov/learn/

This section of the Library of Congress' website is especially for teachers. Among the lessons it makes available are some designed specifically to teach students (K-8) about primary sources and how to analyze them. In addition, the site includes worksheets aimed at helping students analyze a few different types of primary sources. For these worksheets see the "Media Analysis Tools" link.

Making Sense of Evidence - History Matters: The History Survey Course on the Web
http://historymatters.gmu.edu/browse/makesense/

A superb resource for teachers and students, Making Sense of Evidence offers detailed, in depth, and interactive explorations into how historians analyze, interpret, and various types of sources including maps, letters, films, fiction, photography, and oral history. Each tutorial guides students-using readings, questions and examples- through the process of analyzing the source type under investigation. Also in this section are audio interviews with leading scholars who share their own process of source analysis and interpretation.

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Online Primary Source-Based Lesson Plans and Activities

These sites offer activities, ideas and fully-developed lesson plans on a range of topics in American History. Each has been included because of its emphasis on and inclusion of primary sources.

In the Classroom - American Centuries
http://www.americancenturies.mass.edu

The highly-acclaimed website "American Memories" makes available digital versions of over 1,800 historical objects and documents from the collection of the Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, MA and offers a range of classroom activities and curricula which make use of them. The "In the Classroom" portion of the site includes both classroom activities/lessons and comprehensive grade-specific curricula based on primary sources. The curriculum materials include detailed background essays and resource lists. Although the focus of the collections is on New England, the activities and lesson topics tell broad and significant stories about American History. Activities and lessons are innovative and interactive. Many are teacher-created. Activities are searchable by grade and content area (including math, language arts, and science as well as US history.)

The Learning Page - Library of Congress
http://memory.loc.gov/learn/

This is a section of the Library of Congress' website especially for Teachers. It is designed to provide a "teacher's eye view" of the American Memory Collections, and help teachers make use of these in a classroom. The site offers lessons, features, activities, and tips for using the collections. It also includes a section with practical ideas for how to integrate a range of primary source types in the classroom: objects; images; audio; statistics; text sources; the community. The lessons available on this page are searchable by theme, topic or historical era. Note that there are some lessons specifically designed to teach students about and how to analyze primary sources. In addition, for worksheets on how to help students analyze a few different types of primary sources, see the "Media Analysis Tools" link on the site.

EdSiteMent History and Social Studies Lessons - National Endowment for the Humanities
http://edsitement.neh.gov/tab_lesson.asp?subjectArea=3

The National Endowment for the Humanities has created a fully searchable website with hundreds of lesson plans (for k-12) related to History and Social Studies. Lessons (all with National Standards correlations) make use of a wide range of source material including those from literature and art, as well as more traditional historical sources. Lessons are searchable by grade, topic, or period. From the EdSiteMent home page -http://edsitement.neh.gov - you can access Lesson plans tied to three other major categories: "Art & Culture," "Literature & Language Arts," and "Foreign Language". All lessons are cross-referenced with related lessons from across the website which allows teachers to create interdisciplinary classroom experiences.

Modules on Major Topics in American History - The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
http://www.gilderlehrman.org/teachers/index.html

Offers over 20 modules related to topics that cover all major periods in US history. The modules, created by a well-known historian, correlate with national history standards are geared toward use with high school students. Each module includes a background essay, activities, and primary sources from the Gilder Lehrman collection.

Our Documents
http://www.ourdocuments.gov/

This website offers a limited number of lesson/teaching ideas when visitors click on "Tools for Educators." As a cooperative effort among the National Archives and Records Administration, National History Day, and USA Freedom Corps, the Our Documents initiative explores and makes available the original versions of 100 milestone documents of American History. As a whole, the documents (which include such items as the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Louisiana Purchase Treaty (1803), Plessey v. Ferguson (1896), the Social Security Act ( 1935) and Aerial Photograph of Missiles in Cuba (1962)) aim to "reflect the diversity and unity" of the United States. Each of the documents is accompanied by an introductory/contextualizing essay and a transcript of the document. Digital technology allows site visitors to look closely at and move around within the document simply by moving the mouse across it on a computer screen. Documents can be downloaded.

Smithsonian Education
http://www.smithsonianeducation.org

This site is "the central education website for the Smithsonian Institution" and it makes available teaching/learning ideas and items from the 16 Smithsonian museums. The "Educators" portion of the site is divided into four broad content areas - including "History and Culture," "Science and Technology," Art & Design", and "Language Arts" - to help focus your use of the site. Features include nearly 1,000 educational resources, searchable by grade, subject and museum, and lessons, activities, and teaching tools aligned with national education standards. Site also includes links to and ideas about using the Smithsonian's numerous online exhibitions.

Teaching with Historic Places
http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/twhp/

As a joint effort of the National Park Service and the National Register of Historic Places, Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) "uses properties listed in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places to enliven history, social studies, geography, civics, and other subjects." This site offers a variety of activities and over 100 lessons which bring historic places into the classroom and connect them - and lessons about them-to national standards. Lessons are searchable by location/state, theme, time period or by standards. The range of locations and topics covers the scope of American history and the geography of the United States. The lessons are designed for the middle school level, but most can easily be adapted for elementary and/or high school students. Primary sources are included in each lesson but are not searchable independent of those lessons.

Teaching With Documents- U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/teaching_with_documents.html

On the "Teaching With Documents" area of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) site teachers will find lesson plans and activities that make central use of primary sources from the NARA collection- on topics correlated to the National History Standards and the National Standards for Civics and Government. Document sets are grouped by topic and are easy to access and use. NARA is an independent Federal agency that preserves United States history and oversees the management of all Federal records-a wide category which includes records of prison systems, infrastructure initiatives, immigration centers, taxes, and courts, among others. In addition to this wide set of materials, the collections also include the cornerstone documents of the government, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights.

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Guide to Citing Primary Sources from an Online Archive

Unless otherwise noted, primary sources found on-line should be cited just the way they would be if found in a brick and mortar archive, but you must be sure to ALSO INCLUDE the name of the website, author/sponsor/creator of the website, url, and date accessed - at the end of the citation. While this is a general guide, some websites include sections on how to cite their sources. Please make sure that you follow any instructions you find on the site.

Click here to open a Microsoft Word document showing the exact formatting for citing Primary Sources. The html code that renders these pages does not allow for indentations, and in order to correctly display them a Word document was found to be necessary.

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