rummaging in grandma's attic, have you ever discovered a box of
old photographs and marveled at the images, never to know who is
pictured. Or found old newspapers, magazines, or sheet music and
wondered how they survived the ravages of time? Imagine seeing
the handwritten journal entry of Walt Whitman's observation at
the Battle of Antietam or viewing the only known picture of Lincoln
at Gettysburg. Now you can reconnect with our nation’s history
through the National Digital Library's American Memory online collections
presented by the Library of Congress. With new processes for preservation
and imaging, the Library of Congress has undertaken a massive effort
to make diverse collections of primary source material available
through history from the hand written documents of the founding
fathers to the social and cultural landscape of a growing nation.
In words, pictures, and sounds the American Memory collections
offer us the unique opportunity to dig through original source
material and bring living history into our classrooms. CyberBee
brings you highlights from a few of the current collections and
ways to use them with your students.
Words and Deeds
in American History
Arnold's plea to George Washington for his wife's safety after
his traitorous act to the country and Washington's compassionate
response. Glimpse the personal side of Theodore Roosevelt by reading
an illustrated fable he sent to his young son in 1890. You probably
won't find stories like these in a social studies textbook. By
tapping into Words and Deeds in American History, you can give
students insight about individuals in the context of the time period.
The manuscript division holds the papers of 23 presidents from
George Washington to Calvin Coolidge as well as material on African-American
and Women's History, literature, invention, and law. Draft copies
of Langston Hughes's “Ballad of Booker T.” and Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow's “The Village Blacksmith” are
additional gems you will find.
Histories Manuscripts from the Federal Writers Project, 1936 -
in content, the American Life Histories Manuscripts are more difficult
to search because some are lengthy documents and none are indexed
by topic. With persistence, however, you will discover magical
first-person reflections from individuals like J. W. Wilson of
Lincoln, Nebraska, who describes his musical experience at school:
We all went to
singing school and were taught the rudiments of music. The singing
master had a tuning fork to get the proper pitch. I remember one
went to school
Down beside the rushy pool
Twenty little coats of green
Twenty vests all white and clean.
We must be on time said they
First we study then we play.
Master Bull Frog brave and stern
Called their classes in their turn,
Twenty Froggies grew up fast
Great Frogs they became at last
Now they sit on other logs
Teaching other little Frogs.
Graham Bell’s notebook entry of March 10, 1876 as he describes
the successful experiment with the telephone and the words he spoke
to his assistant “Mr. Watson – come here – I
want to see you.” View the sketches he made of the telephone
design along with his hand written notations. In addition there
are special presentations, including a timeline, family tree, and
information about the inventor and scientist that will be very
useful in the classroom.
for this collection looks at the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s
Assassination. An introduction, timeline, and gallery are presented
on each topic. Some of the interesting items include broadsides
published at the time of Lincoln’s death. Included in the
Martyr of Liberty is an adaptation of a quote from Macbeth, Lincoln’s
favorite Shakespeare play.
Taking the Long
View: Panoramic Photographs 1851-1991
A unique collection
of panoramic photographs shows cityscapes, landscapes, and portraits.
In this example from the Michigan State Fair in 1911, President
William Howard Taft is seen addressing a large crowd. Several have
decided the best view is from a tree. Notice the attire of the
men and women. Check out those hats!
Stroll down the
street of a turn-of-the-century fish market in New York City, witness
the funeral cortege of William McKinley, get a birds-eye-view of
San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire. These and more
are part of the early motion picture collection.
Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982
For a fascinating
look at cattle ranching in Nevada, don’t miss Buckaroos in
Paradise. By viewing a series of videoclips you will learn about
branding, haying, and cattle feeding. You could incorporate these
movies and materials about the Ninety-Six Ranch into a lesson for
students who have never had this experience.
Voices from the
Dust Bowl: The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker
of folk culture is preserved in this collection of square dance
calls, traditional ballads, cowboy songs, and storytelling. Vester
Whitworth sings while Zelmer Ward plays guitar in their rendition
of “Runnin' Stewball.” Note that dialect is approximated
in the text:
Oh Stewball, he holds a high head
His mane and his tail are as fine as silk thread.
He's born in
New England and he run in St. Paul
And the name that I give aim is Runnin' Stewball.
Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election, 1918-1920
delivery of a speech is much more dramatic than reading the text decades
later. Thanks to the foresight of St. Louis attorney Guy Golterman,
prominent Americans were invited to repeat their orations as part
of the Nation's Forum Project. Harding, Coolidge, Cox, and others
recorded World War I and 1920 election speeches. In “Safeguard
America,” Corinne Roosevelt Robinson gives firm and resounding
support to two Republican candidates:
"I am behind
Senator Harding and Governor Coolidge for President and
Vice-President of the United States for two reasons. First, because
they are the nominees of the Republican party, and secondly because
I believe them to be 100 percent American, of true patriotism, who have
not failed to show marked efficiency and ability in public office".
your students to audio recordings from early vaudeville. “Over
There,” a World War I music hit, could be compared to “From
A Distance,” a Bette Midler tune popular during the Gulf
War. The banter between a fiddle playing, wise-cracking hillbilly
and a sophisticated city slicker in “The Arkansas Traveler,” could
be compared to contemporary stand-up comedy routines:
Say, there's a hole in the roof of your house.
Why don't you have it fixed?
it's been rainin' lately.
Yes, but why don't you fix it when it isn't raining?
when it don't rain, it don't leak.
Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties
students to a Mexican dance, a Portuguese children’s song,
or a Cowboy’s Lament. This ethnographic collection from Northern
California has over 35 hours of folk music recorded in twelve languages
representing numerous ethnic groups and 185 musicians.
" Let sixteen gamblers come handle my coffin,
Let sixteen cowboys come sing me a song,
Take me to the graveyard and lay the sod o'er me,
For I'm a poor cowboy and I know I've [done?] wrong.
We beat the drum slowly and played the fife slowly,
And bitterly wept as we bore him along;
For we all loved our [comrade?], so brave, young and handsome,
We all loved our comrade although he'd [done?] wrong."
provide special presentations that explore a theme represented
in the collection. To Form a More Perfect Union: An Introduction
to the Congressional Documents explores the work of the Continental
Congress and the Constitutional Convention from 1774-1789. This
selected collection of broadsides highlights the road to independence.
From organizing for war to creating the Constitution, student historians
will gain a better understanding of how the 13 colonies united
to defend themselves. Many pages are illustrated with historic
One of the most
impressive features of the American Memory Site is the Learning
Page. This area is designed to assist educators and students in
using the collections. Learn More About It delves deeper into individual
collections by pointing to specific concepts to search, posing
questions to answer, and suggesting themes to probe. In the activity
area, students can be historical detectives by following hints
and clues, solve a jigsaw puzzle, or study immigration by viewing
photographs and reading oral histories. Feature Presentations bring
together items from across the American Memory collections to investigate
a common theme such as women pioneers, presidents, and elections.
On The Learning Page, there are also projects, search guides, a
framework for using primary resources, information about copyright,
and sample lessons to use with students. Especially helpful are
the tips for accessing, printing, and saving materials in American