By MARILYN PARR
Revolution, reaction and reform in history was the topic of an all-day workshop hosted by the National Digital Library Learning Center on June 12 for teachers, coaches and mentors of students participating in National History Day. Each year these educators guide their students in the creation of research papers, visual exhibits, dramatic and musical performances and multimedia documentaries for competitions held throughout the United States.
National History Day is a yearlong educational experience directed at grades 6-12. The program focuses on the teaching and learning of history in American schools and includes students in public, private, parochial and charter schools, as well as those who are home schooled. Students are encouraged to create a project based on a theme; with next year's theme being the influence of any or all of these factors in history: revolution, reaction or reform. Through a series of local and state competitions, the projects are evaluated by professional historians and history teachers with an emphasis on the learning process. The History Day experience culminates with the national competition held at the University of Maryland at College Park.
The workshop began in the Mumford Room with a welcome address by John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book. Mr. Cole discussed the development of the Library of Congress and growth of the collections as a response to parallel changes in American culture. His remarks ranged from the Library's founding—Congress's need for a parliamentary library in the new federal city—to the ravages of the 1814 fire in the Capitol and resulting purchase of Jefferson's collection, the second fire in the Capitol in 1851, and the long process leading up to the move to the Jefferson Building in 1897.
Guest speaker, LeAnn Potter, education specialist at the National Archives, continued the thread of revolution, reform and reaction with her talk about the resources of the National Archives that are relevant to the overall theme for National History Day. Ms. Potter assured the teachers that the various regional facilities of the National Archives are open to their students with the appropriate documentation.
Marvin Kranz, Manuscript Division history specialist, spoke enthusiastically about 19th century reforms and their effect on American society. Mr. Kranz highlighted the developments in transportation, the explosion of urban growth and the decline of the agrarian-based population. Focusing on the National History Day theme, he delineated how students could view the population shift to the cities as a reaction to shifts in farming patterns, or the reform movements targeting social ills as a reaction to overcrowding.
The changes wrought by westward expansion and the pressures on Native Americans were the focus of the presentation by Randy Wells, National Digital Library Program team leader for the Law Collections. Using the online collection (memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lawhome.html) of Indian Land Cessions in the United States, 1784 to 1894, in "A Century of Lawmaking," he demonstrated how to use these maps and the accompanying legislation to track patterns of migration, land use, and settlement of Native Americans.
Because National History Day projects focus on the use of primary documents, the afternoon sessions were devoted to examining material accessed on American Memory or housed elsewhere within the Library's collections. In addition to tours of the Great Hall provided by Visitor Services Staff and docents, the teachers could select from workshops providing hands-on experience using the Library's American Memory collections of digitized historical materials, or one of five sessions led by curators and historians from the Library. Karen Needles, of the National Digital Library Learning Center, taught two sessions on evaluating primary sources. This workshop, designed to teach the participants how to view material with a critical eye, studies the digitized manuscripts, sheet music, documents, photographs, maps, sound recordings and motion pictures for use in a classroom setting.
Basic search techniques for using American Memory collections were taught by Danna Bell-Russel, of the National Digital Library Learning Center. In the workshop, she emphasized search strategies for accessing material by subject or format, as well as encouraging the serendipitous nature of research. She also highlighted the resources, such as pathfinders, lesson plans, and the synonym list, available to educators on the Library's Learning Page (memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu).
Rosemary Plakas, of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division; Sheridan Harvey of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division; Barbara Natanson, of the Prints and Photographs Division; and Janice Ruth, of the Manuscript Division provided an in-depth look at the sources for studying women's rights and women's suffrage at the Library. Their presentation included selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection and the online "Votes for Women" Suffrage Pictures Collection (memory.loc.gov/ammem/vfwhtml/vfwhome.html). To compliment these collections, the educators were given a bibliography noting the many text-based and electronic resources for this subject.
Photographs as a primary source were illuminated by Jennifer Brathovde, of the Prints and Photographs Division, in her session, "Native People View Themselves: New Perspectives on Photography." Selecting images from a variety of image collections, including the Edmund S. Curtis collection, the Look Magazine collection and the Yanker Poster collection, Ms. Brathovde showed individual portraits, school groups, sports teams and posters of American Indians from the 1880s to the late 1970s.
A contemporary collection served as the focal point of John Haynes's session. The records of the Communist Party USA were thought to be lost until Mr. Haynes, a 20th century history specialist in the Manuscript Division, tracked the collection to the Russian State Archives of Social and Political History. In1993 he examined the collection in Moscow and recommended that the Library open negotiations for a microfilm copy to be housed at the Library to ensure permanent availability of the material. The collection documents Communist Party activities, such as the attempts of the party to enroll sharecroppers in 1934.
Marvin Kranz, and John Sellers, also a history specialist in the Manuscript Division, completed the series of smaller group presentations with a look at sources for the study of the American Revolution and the Civil War. These documents, housed in the Manuscript Division, are continually of interest to educators and students of these periods and proved a fascinating glimpse into these important aspects of American history.
The theme of revolution, reaction and reform will inspire numerous National History Day projects on the American Revolution, women's suffrage and abolitionism. Teachers will be able to use the information from these workshops to assist students in developing a wider range of topics based on documents and other primary sources housed at the Library and accessible on American Memory.
Ms. Parr is acting coordinator of the National Digital Library Learning Center.