The Primary Source Librarian

Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources

For Adam’s Sake and a Personal Connection

| July 27, 2014

Recently I have been listening to the audio version of For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England, by colonial historian Allegra di Bonaventura. The author has based the narrative on a remarkable diary kept from 1711 until 1758 by farmer and tradesman Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut. I think it’s the first book […]

Lucien Jacques, French Soldier and Pacifist

| May 22, 2014

Three years ago I wrote two blog posts (Part I and Part II) about my “Personal Memorial Day Journey” to follow the route taken by my Great Uncle Tony Bastian before he was killed in France in August of 1918. Now I am back in France, but in Provence this time rather than the killing […]

Thoughts of a Wannabe Historian

| January 18, 2014

I may have missed my calling. Only since I discovered the power of primary sources have I yearned for a new career as a historian. Reading history textbooks aloud in high school classes put me to sleep. I could never understand how my mother could read one biography after another from American history. I did […]

What’s Wrong with Primary Sources?

| November 18, 2012

Last week at the request of one of my colleagues at the Library of Congress, I compiled a list of organizations and individuals who regularly tweet about primary sources. Just in case I had missed any, I searched Twitter for the keywords primary sources. Since I follow teachers and education organizations almost exclusively, I was surprised […]

Three Questions

| February 29, 2012

Sometimes simple is best. When I introduce skills for asking questions of primary sources, I usually start with a three-question form from the Library of Congress that is no longer all that easy to locate. Thinking about Primary Sources (Click the above link for a PDF version.) Why do I keep going back to this […]

A Remarkable Chance Encounter

| October 29, 2010

As my readers may have noticed, I’ve been off the grid and absent from real life for over three weeks now. For two of those weeks I was studying Italian in Montepulciano (Tuscany) and Sorrento. After twelve total weeks of off-and-on study (mostly off) over the past four years, I have nearly reached the advanced […]

Slavery: Textbook vs. Narrative History

| September 5, 2010

Once you have read a handful of narratives from the Library of Congress collection, Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project 1936-1938, you will never again rely wholly on textbooks to teach about slavery. These narratives tell more about the actual slave experience than any American history textbook can convey in a […]

Evaluating Eyewitness Reports

| August 21, 2010

When I give workshops on teaching with primary sources, I always ask participants to define the term primary source and to give examples. Participants always offer “eyewitness reports” as an example. It stands to reason, then, that the ability to analyze eyewitness reports for point of view, accuracy, and context is an essential primary source […]

Primary Source Teaching the Web 2.0 Way, K-12

| November 16, 2009

I just realized that over the past couple of years, I’ve made a handful of veiled references to a book that I was writing, but I’ve never actually posted a photo of the cover or a description of the contents. Guess I’m not a tooter of my own horn. Then there’s the fact that when […]

Faked Photographs – Primary Sources or Not?

| August 30, 2009

Last Sunday’s (August 23) New York Times had a fun article by Bill Marsh called “Faked Photographs: Look, and Then Look Again.” The article made me wonder just how much editing makes a primary source photograph no longer a true primary source. Most of the photographs in the online slide show that accompanied the article […]