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Panorama #1, Hot Springs, Ark, c1910

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

Overview of Project

The Arkansas Memory Project is modeled after the American Memory collections of the Library of Congress. The project is a digital archive of primary source materials designed for use by students and teachers in Arkansas classrooms. It is a collection of official documents, publications, maps, letters, narratives, recordings, photographs, art, and other artifacts from Arkansas.

Your assignment is to build an archival collection for your Memory Project. You will find and archive a set of primary documents that capture family, local, or state history. In analyzing the primary sources you collect, you will examine the interplay between national, state, local, and personal history. See the list below for examples of project topics chosen by students.

Examples of Project Topics

Family History:

  • Civil War Handwritten Letters
    Handwritten letters with a transcription.
  • The History of a Bohemian Immigrant Family
    Photographs and other documents.
  • An Arkansan in WWII
    Patch from a World War II uniform.
  • Plight of Black Farmers
    Certificate of award.

Hometown History:

  • Camden Native Captures Oswald!
    Court transcript.
  • The McCullough-Chichester House
    Local historical architecture photographs.
  • The Old Hot Springs Bath House Row
    Photographs of historical architecture--from American Memory.
  • In God We Trust
    Carbon copies of typewritten letters plus a telegram.
  • The White River
    Black and white photographs from a personal collection.
  • The Ark Tuberculosis Center of Booneville
    Oral history interviews with patients.
  • Marion's Military Road
    Street/highway documentation.

Arkansas History Topics:

  • Photos of Arkansas During Great Depression
    Black and white photographs from American Memory.
  • The New Madrid Earthquake
    Nineteenth century newspaper accounts.
  • Women's Suffrage in Arkansas
    Early twentieth century news clippings.

Second Year Student Projects:

  • Cassette tape recordings of the student's grandparents singing.
  • Merchandise Web page of Elvis Presley's Graceland estate.
  • Supposed grave marker of an Indian found on a historic farm site.

During this unit of study, you will demonstrate that you "know key facts and issues" about a given time period, that you can "think like an historian," and that you can become a "producer of useful knowledge." You will use the skills you have learned for conducting professional historical inquiry. You will analyze primary documents, search for related secondary texts, and correlate individual documents with the key facts and issues of a particular time period. You will use your online search skills to survey and critique Web sites on American and your state's history.

Choosing Content for Your Collection

In building your collection of primary sources you may choose to focus on:

  • Family history
  • Hometown history
  • Traditional art, customs, and celebrations of your community
  • Documents in existing archives (Library of Congress, museums, etc.)
  • Original documentaries

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You may find these materials in a number of different places using many different means. Possibilities include:

  • Examining your family’s photo albums and keepsake drawers;
  • Listening to the stories told at family reunions;
  • Collecting recipes for the traditional dishes served at your family's Thanksgiving dinner or other holiday gatherings;
  • Asking your neighbors and friends to share with you their family lore, keepsakes, and traditions;
  • Viewing artifacts in the local museum or the county historical society in your area;
  • Finding documents in the clerk’s office at your county courthouse;
  • Examining your church's scrapbook or other records;
  • Attending community festivals or the county fair;
  • Collecting examples of local folk art by visiting craft fairs around the state;
  • Exploring existing digital archives outside as well as in your state; and
  • Creating original documents yourself. You may create your own primary sources by:
    • recording the oral history of a business;
    • photographing scenes at historic sites and comparing them to early images of the site; or
    • taping traditional local events as they continue in the present day.

See Explore Your Community: A Community Heritage Poster for the Classroom for more ideas about how to find and select content.

Analyzing the Collection

Analyze the primary sources to help you observe details, uncover new questions, and draw conclusions about what each primary source reveals about the topic that you are researching.

You will have to answer these questions in regard to your collection:

  • Is it interesting to you, to other students, to other historians?
  • Is it well analyzed? Is your commentary insightful, accurate, and cited?
  • Is it placed in context? Are your artifacts related to similar documents or background history?
  • Is it significant? Does it illustrate key events, important trends, or recurring themes in state and/or national history?
  • Is it useful to other students and to teachers?

The real power of your Memory Project will come from two ingredients. It can personalize a bit of history, showing the connection between larger events in American history and the events in your home state, hometown, or even your family's history. Secondly, it captures some small, but real, pieces of history and lets your viewers see for themselves how people looked, what they said, what they did, and (in some cases) why they did it.

Evaluating Your Product

This will be an ongoing project and you will be continually assessed. Roundtable discussions are scheduled to help you generate new questions, develop research strategies, better articulate the significance of your collection, and make progress at a steady pace. The unit ends with a written analysis of your archive and a final oral presentation to your class in which you will defend your work as both an historian and as a producer.

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