Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

The Civil War and Primary Sources: Dealing with the Wonderful Abundance

Posted on: April 13, 2011

The sesquicentennial of the Civil War and today’s news media stories about Fort Sumter have left my head spinning.

There are an abundance of primary source  Civil War documents, photographs, maps, political  cartoons, and ephemera readily available to us in digital format. But how do we find it?   Digitalization makes these resources come alive and accessible to everyone.  Digital  Civil War resources range from photographs and diaries on county historical society web sites to countless museums and  libraries including the Library of Congress.   Primary sources  aren’t that hard to find, but how do we use them to enhance student learning through inquiry and critical thinking.

Even teachers experienced with using primary sources find the vastness of digital collection overwhelming.  One teacher is concerned about the amount of time a research project using primary sources will take.    But, using primary sources does not have to take a tremendous amount of time; finding the right resources doesn’t take long if you know where to look.  Start  small.  Focus  on a narrow topic or even on a single resource.  

The teacher who descried herself as “overwhelmed” introduced me to The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection, a collection recently added to the  Library of Congress.     This unique collection was donated to the Library by the  Lillenquest family of Virginia.  Two  teens, previously the teacher’s  students,  became interested in the photos when they began purchasing them at auctions.  What a story!

The collection is available for viewing at the Library of Congress and online.

Learn how you can starting small and  create engaging, thoughtful student activities.
Online course: Teaching with Primary Sources,
Comments from Past Students
Register Online: http://www.uwstout.edu/soe/profdev/register.cfm

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