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Panorama #1, Hot Springs, Ark, c1910

[Detail] Panorama #1, Hot Springs, Ark, c1910

Lesson Overview

The collection of an archive of primary source materials will be an exciting component of a year-long American Studies class focusing on historiography and the use of primary sources. Students collect primary source materials from their families or local communities. In analyzing these primary sources, students examine the interplay between national, state, local, and personal history. Over a period of several weeks, students may produce a digital collection modeled on the Library of Congress' American Memory.

Teachers and students from other states and localities may easily follow this model to create local history Memory Projects of their own. Teachers may choose to limit the lesson to a single unit in which students build the archive of primary source materials, or may extend the lesson to a year-long project by including units in which students create Web pages and lesson plans based on their archives.


After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify and collect artifacts related to key themes or events in American history.
  • Describe and analyze primary sources.
  • Locate primary and secondary sources that are related to other primary sources.
  • Compare/contrast materials to articulate relationships between artifacts and events or themes in national, state, and local history.
  • Digitize selected documents, along with related materials and student analysis, for presentation on the Internet.
  • Learn key facts/concepts of American history.
  • Understand historiography as a process parallel to the scientific method.
  • Understand and articulate the interplay between national, state, local, and personal history.


Time Required

  • Two weeks

Recommended Grade Level

  • 9-12
  • 6-8


  • City and Regional History


  • Postwar United States, 1945-present
  • Great Depression and WWII, 1929-1945


Neal Gibson and George West