Three Good Resources for Teaching With Primary Sources

I’m currently developing a new version of my popular online course, Teaching History With Technology (you can see a preview last year’s course here). Part of that process has been revisiting collections of primary sources and some of the tools that I recommend for teaching lessons based on primary sources. Here are three of the many resources that I’m featuring in the course. 

Historical Scene Investigations
Historical Scene Investigation contains thirteen cases in which students analyze “clues” found in primary sources in order to form a conclusion to each investigation. For example, in the case of The Boston Massacre students have to decide if justice was served. HSI provides students with “case files” on which they record the evidence they find in the primary source documents and images they are provided. HSI provides templates for students to use to record observations from the evidence.


HSI is produced by College of William & Mary School of Education, University of Kentucky School of Education, and the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program. My video overview of HSI is available here.

Digital Public Library of America
The Digital Public Library of America is a good place to locate primary source documents to use in your history lessons. The DPLA offers more than 100 primary source document sets that are organized by subject and time period in United States history. Depending upon the time period the DPLA primary source sets include documents, drawings, maps, photographs, and film clips. A list of points to consider accompanies each artifact in each set. Teachers should scroll to the bottom of the page on each artifact to find a teaching guide related to the primary source set.

World Digital Library
The World Digital Library is a resource that I started using back in 2009. At that time it was just a small collection of about 1,200 digitized primary source artifacts from libraries around the world. Today, the World Digital Library hosts more than 19,000 digitized primary source artifacts to view and download. You can search the WDL by date, era, country, continent, topic, and type of resource. My favorite way to explore the WDL is by browsing through the interactive maps that are available when you click on the globe icon in the site’s header. The WDL aims to be accessible to as many people as possible by providing search tools and content descriptions in multiple languages.

What’s the Difference Between a Primary and a Secondary Source?

If you’re looking for a good video explanation of the differences between primary and secondary sources, the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota History Center offers this good and concise explanation for students.


Thank You Readers for 14 Amazing Years!