Category Archives: Classics

Great Sites for Primary Sources!

As a History Teacher (with a background in archaeology) I understand the relevance and importance of primary sources in the classroom. Primary sources are not solely essays or primary works, but art, photographs, and other avenues of popular culture.

Finding primary source documents on the web can sometimes be a bit of a scavenger hunt. I know that I have spent hours scouring the web for good translations, excerpted texts, or relevant materials. Additionally, incorporating primary source texts can be a challenge with high school children. Often, when I distribute an original text, it is the first time they have seen a document of this type. Additionally, as much as we educators do not like to admit, sometimes it is a challenge for us to come up with ideas and activities to effectively incorporate this material into our classrooms. How do we make this interesting? How do we make this comprehensible? How do we make this relevant? Bringing in an original work and simply tossing it into a classroom environment is a sure-fire method for failure – students will often be confused, bored, and overwhelmed. Teaching with primary sources requires preparation and method.

In this article, I am highlighting several websites that focus on providing primary sources for educators and students. These sites are all excellent resources for educators in the Social Studies with a broad range of topics: American History, World History, World Religions, Language, Literature, Art, and Politics. There are many more amazing resources out there and I encourage you to add yours as well!

Milestone Documents  (Subscribe to their Facebook and Twitter feeds (all free) for regular highlights of documents in their catalogue as well as lesson plan ideas.)

  • Cost: $106.20 for an annual subscription (Class subscriptions are $15/student with free accounts for teachers)
  • Grades: High School and College  (the material is too sophisticated for elementary and middle school).
  • Subject(s): History
  • Geographic Focus: Milestone includes a solid library of texts for all of World History (Ancient, Western, African, United States, and Asian).
  • Additional Subject Focus: In addition to organizing the material by date and region, Milestone has sections of Social History including politics, religion, and women.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents
  • Navigation: The content area is easy to navigate and great for “browsing.” The search feature is excellent for when you know exactly what you need.
  • Teacher Resources: lesson plans, rubrics, and assessment material.
  • Web 2.0 Focus: Many of the lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements – Google Maps, Mind Mapping, etc.

What sets Milestone apart from the free resources listed below is that each document is predicated with a succinct contextual/historical statement. Students and educators are provided with a solid background for the text. Most works are also followed up with a critical analysis essay as well as provocative questions. Milestone is an excellent investment for teachers and students alike.

EDSITEment - Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities,

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & CultureForeign LanguageHistory & Social Studies, as well as Literature & Language Arts.
  • Geographic Focus: World
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, politics, religion, popular culture, and more. There are many sub-categories that merit exploration.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

Smithsonian Education - Sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & DesignScience & TechnologyHistory & CultureLanguage Arts
  • Geographic Focus: World (US History most thorough)
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, art history
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

  • Cost: Free for Educators and Students (private citizens pay per use), must register for access to materials. Gilder Lehrman encourages schools to register as Affiliated Schools (numerous benefits and access to more resources)
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: American History
  • Geographic Focus: The United States of America
  • Additional Subjects: Social History, Politics, Civil Rights
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content
  • Teacher Resources: some lesson plans and ideas, collaborative weblog, sponsored Teacher Seminars
  • Web 2.0: very little web 2.0 focus.

The Library of Congress

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: History
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on the Americas (national and regional histories), limited resources for World History
  • Additional Subjects: Folklore, local histories, veteran history, literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse and search, requires adaptability
  • Teacher Resources: Some sections have extensive teachers resources in the form of lesson plans and activities, others are more spartan in their construct. LOC offers grants for professional development.
  • Web 2.0: Some sections readily incorporate web 2.0 activities, others are more limited and traditional.

Perseus Digital Library - Sponsored by Tufts University

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: 9-12, College, Graduate
  • Subject: History, Art History, Archaeology
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on Greco-Roman (founded as a Classical Library it contains all Latin & Greek works), ArabicGermanic19th century AmericaRenaissance Europe, Egyptian Papyri
  • Additional Subjects: Humanism, Literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material; the Art & Archaeology Artifact Browser provides High Definition images of thousands of artifacts.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse, excellent search capabilities. This is an fabulous tool so long as you know what you are looking for.
  • Teacher Resources: No lesson plans or activities, purely material resources.
  • Web 2.0: No web 2.0 incorporation.

Internet History Sourcebook by Fordham University

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: 9-12, College, Graduate
  • Subject: History, Art History, Archaeology
  • Geographic Focus: Europe, Africa, Asia
  • Additional Subjects: Humanism, Literature, Religion, LGBTQ, Women
  • Material Types: Text-based documents
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse, excellent search capabilities. This is an fabulous tool so long as you know what you are looking for.
  • Teacher Resources: Limited lesson plan archive
  • Web 2.0: No web 2.0 incorporation.

Hanover Historical Text Collection by Hanover College

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: 9-12, College, Graduate
  • Subject: History
  • Geographic Focus: Europe, Africa, Asia, United States
  • Additional Subjects: Humanism, Literature, Religion, Women
  • Material Types: Text-based documents
  • Navigation: Limited content makes it easy to browse.
  • Teacher Resources: No lesson plans
  • Web 2.0: No web 2.0 incorporation.

National Archives

  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: History
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on the Americas (national and regional histories), limited resources for World History
  • Additional Subjects: Folklore, local histories, veteran history, literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to navigate and browse
  • Teacher Resources: Lesson plans for all grade levels and incorporation of Common Core.
  • Web 2.0: Some sections readily incorporate web 2.0 activities, others are more limited and traditional.

As you can see, there are numerous and extensive resources readily available to educators. The list that I highlighted are a good start, but hardly an all encompassing list. If you have suggestions or additions, please add them here! In the meantime, get browsing for some great material and lesson plan ideas!

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The Best Museums on Flickr

A photographer friend of mine, Christian Santiago, recently redirected me to Flickr. I remember the Flickr of a few years ago, largely used as a repository for vacation photos. Wow has Flickr grown up! As a Social Studies teacher, I am always on the look out for high quality images that are Creative Commons Licensed. Now, museums around the world are using Flickr as a means to showcase and share their collections. What makes these Flickr streams especially valuable is that they use them to highlight their archived material.

Here is a short list of museums on Flickr:

Boys picking up garbage, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Boys picking up garbage, courtesy of the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress - An amazing repository of images from American history, some of the highlights include Dorothea Lange, the history of baseball, and photojournalist collections about child labor.

The Field Museum Library - More than 1,600 images of both the collection of Field Museum and the history of the museum itself.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Not only do they have some great images from their collection, but they include photos of their social events including the Met Gala.

The British Library - More than a million images from their collection  covering topics like fashion, cartography, warfare, botany, and more.

The British Museum - While they have only few images from their collection, they post pictures and videos from their live events around the world, such as Nelson Mandela Day and Day of the Dead Altar.

Prairie Dawn 1971 Muppets, Courtesy of the Smithsonian Museum

Prairie Dawn 1971 Muppets, Courtesy of the Smithsonian Museum

Guggenheim Museum - This is a great way to look at installation exhibits!

National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian - Not only do they post images from their collection, but pictures of the museums’s history, scanning images for their x 3D collection, and more.

National Media Museum - This English museum focuses on photography, video, memes, and more.

The Smithsonian Institution - A great highlight of material at all of the Smithsonian Institutions.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - Another amazing collection of natural history artifacts.

Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art - A nice overview of the collection and exhibits at LACMA.

This is only a small collection, but Fickr is an excellent resource for educators looking for unique, high quality images to incorporate into lessons or to teach students about licensing online content.

Smarthistory: Khan Academy for Social Studies

Great Mosque at Damascus by G. Lewis, courtesy of Smarthistory & Flickr

Great Mosque at Damascus by G. Lewis, courtesy of Smarthistory & Flickr

Khan Academy is popular in math for its brief lectures and interactive modules. However, you can also use it in the Social Studies. Check out Smarthistory, a free multimedia platform for student and teacher of history, archaeology, museum curation, and art history.

It includes an interactive timeline, in-depth yet easy to understand articles, vibrant images, and videos about topics throughout history and around the globe. Check out “Teach with Smarthistory” for ideas on how to incorporate it into your classroom. If you are a historian, archaeologist, museum curator, or otherwise involved in the social science consider contributing an article or multimedia content. Additionally, Smarthistory contributes videos to Google Art Project.

Google Street View Lets Users Become Virtual Timer Travelers

“A lot can change in seven years: buildings rise and landscapes change. Whether you’re standing near the ocean in Japan or in the middle of Times Square, your view will likely be quite different in less than a decade.

That’s the premise behind Google Maps’ newest time-lapse tool, launched today. Since it was released in 2007, Google Street View has allowed users to explore a given area from the perspective of walking along a sidewalk, but with the new tool, they’ll actually be able to see how the street and its surroundings have changed…”

Read Further at: Google Street View Lets Users Become Virtual Timer Travelers.

Getty Museum Adds Another 77,000 Images to its Open Content Archive – Open Culture

Open Culture has announced that the Getty Museum has published an additional 77,000 images to its Open Content Archive! The Getty Museum’s Open Content Archive is a

Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program

Bust of the Emperor Commodus. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

repository of images that the museum has placed in the Public Domain.

More than 87,000 high resolution images are now available via the Getty’s Open Content Archive. To learn more about this project and other resources available to the public, see the article by Open Content Archive:

Getty Museum Adds Another 77,000 Images to its Open Content Archive – Open Culture.

Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Upgraded & Expanded

A portion of the Isaiah Scroll, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A portion of the Isaiah Scroll, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library. The upgraded version provides 10,000 additional high resolution images as well as more supplementary texts to allow users to understand the material in context.

The new website also provides better search features, better explanations, additional translations in German and Russian, and more. The website continues to get updates and will become more robust as it progresses. If you would like to check it out, be sure to visit the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library. To learn more about the new features, check out the Israel Antiquities Press Release.

3D Printing the Smithsonian

If you’ve been debating about whether or not to get a 3D printer for your school, the Smithsonian Institution has given you another argument in favor of making that purchase. If you’re familiar with the Smithsonian’s X 3D program hosts a repository of 3D scanned items from the Smithsonian’s collection! These high definition scans are not your traditional 3D virtual objects – I promise they feel like you’re view ing it in real life! You can rotate and view objects in 3 Dimensions for free!

Now, the Smithsonian has begun to place objects from the x 3D program into a digital catalogue that will allow you to make a 3D model using a relatively inexpensive 3D printer. The most recent addition the Lincoln Life Mask.

3D Printer, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

3D Printer, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In a recent article, Secretary of the Smithsonian G. Wayne Clough highlights the boon this provides for both scholars and educators. Check out his article, “How Will 3D Printing Change the Smithsonian?