How integrating digitized collections from across cultural institutions can create impactful learning experiences and more holistic narratives
Ashley Naranjo & Lee Ann Potter
Individual primary sources can be excellent teaching tools—but when they are paired with others that reflect a variety of media, they can be magical! They can offer multiple perspectives on the same event, engage all of our senses and appeal to different learners' interests. What a photograph shows, an oral history might tell. What one source whispers, another might shout. What one source proves, another source might contradict. And the more we share multiple sources with students—or encourage students to find them on their own—the more we model how knowledge can become wisdom. [...]
Searching for, combining, and creating with a robust variety of sources can be both challenging and exhilarating because often, the materials are not all found in a single repository. For example, an inventor’s papers may be in the collections of the Library of Congress, while their patent applications are in the holdings of the National Archives, their patent models are in the Smithsonian, their workshop is maintained by the National Park Service, and a local historical society provides tours of the inventor’s home.
Fortunately, digitization efforts have led to online collections and exhibitions, dramatically increasing the access and usability of materials housed in multiple repositories. This unprecented access to high quality instructional sources, paired with inquiry prompts and critical thinking questions, can enhance and deepen teaching on a wide range of topics. [...]
Kathleen Barker and her colleagues at History UnErased developed a case study on the Harlem Renaissance using images from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as songs, poems, and newspapers from the Library of Congress, maps from theCensus Bureau, and archival material from theSchomburg Centerto give students and teachers a more complete picture of the past. She emphasized, “People whom we label and understand today as LGBTQ have always existed. The collections of institutions like the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian play an important role in History UnErased’s mission of bringing LGBTQ-inclusive history to K-12 classrooms.”