The Primary Source Librarian

Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources

Which Primary Source Tells the Truth?

| August 16, 2009

Today’s New York Times published an article by Rachel L. Swarns entitled “Madison and the White House, Through the Memoir of a Slave.” As a 10-year-old slave, Paul Jennings first set foot in the White House of President James Madison. “…over the course of his long life, Mr. Jennings witnessed, and perhaps participated in, the […]

Behind the Attic Wall

| April 21, 2009

Remember the children’s book, Behind the Attic Wall, and its hidden world just waiting to be explored? Now imagine discovering a cache of Civil War letters and artifacts behind the wall of your vacation home! That’s just what a New York couple discovered as they were renovating their newly-purchased 200-year-old house in Bloomville, New York, […]

Whose Father Was He?

| March 30, 2009

Today’s New York Times has the intriguing first part of a series titled “Whose Father Was He?” Written by filmmaker/author Errol Morris, the story reads as a sort of CSI-Civil War, and it is based on a photograph found on the corpse of a Union soldier at Gettysburg: The soldier’s body was found near the […]

Propaganda in Nazi Germany

| March 16, 2009

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has an excellent new online exhibit for exploring sophisticated Nazi propaganda campaigns and their legacy. One student activity explains the development of the “People’s Radio” that was mass produced and sold to millions of German citizens. The radio allowed the Nazi regime to control the information that all Germans […]

Happy Birthday, Abe Lincoln!

| February 12, 2009

The Library of Congress opens its exhibit today in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday–With Malice toward None. You can divide your classes into groups to explore each of the ten vignettes from different periods of Lincoln’s life. There’s also a notice on the Web site that two interactive exhibits (always a favorite of students) […]

In Lincoln’s Hand

| January 14, 2009

Just in case you have not read this elsewhere, there’s a new book out about Abraham Lincoln, and I think I’m going to have to buy it. The Library of Congress has just published the book–In Lincoln’s Hand–as a companion piece to their upcoming exhibition of Lincoln artifacts. “On the occasion of the 200th anniversary […]

The Lincoln Bicentennial–Start Planning Now!

| January 10, 2009

Just in case you’ve missed the big news, the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth will be celebrated in 2009. What teachable moments! I’m starting to notice lots of excellent exhibits and teaching ideas centered on the event. Here are a few examples, and I hope to pass on more in the weeks to come: […]

Thanks, Studs!

| November 5, 2008

Anyone who teaches oral history techniques to students today owes a huge debt to Studs Terkel, the great oral historian and radio legend who died last week at the age of 96. Cheryl Corley of NPR News did a fine tribute to Studs Terkel. Terkel hosted a Chicago radio program, “The Wax Museum,” for forty-five […]

Constitution Day – Planning Ahead

| August 17, 2008

Need some great ideas for teaching a special unit for Constitution Day, September 17? The School Board in my district requests evidence of Constitution Day activities every year so they can praise the efforts officially in their Board minutes. Here are three primary source-based possibilities to help you stay ahead of the game: The National […]

Centennial Minutes and More from PBS

| August 6, 2008

I’m a PBS junkie, so it stands to reason that I’ve been enjoying the special Rocky Mountain PBS series of “Centennial Minutes” produced to celebrate the Democratic National Convention that will take place in Denver this month. You, too, can watch all the 1-4 minute videos from the PBS Web site and learn all sorts […]