Last week, while attending NECC09, I included a session on using primary sources from the Library of Congress on my agenda. If you’ve never used the Library of Congress website, then you’re missing out on a host of phenomenal resources to use with your students. Unfortunately, the Library of Congress website is very convoluted and difficult to navigate. I know I’m not alone in this synopsis, because the back channel conversation on Twitter during this session seemed to have many people saying, “huh?”
I’ve always been a little leary of sending students and teachers new to using technology to their website. I signed up for the LOC session hoping I would pick up some tips and tricks. While I did acquire a few pieces of information I did not know, my fear that the LOC website is a challenging mess was confirmed. The Library of Congress desperately needs to consult with Google to make their resources and website more navigable. As a matter of fact, more than once the presenter lost me navigating through the LOC website and the only way I could find the correct page was by Googling for it! I’m still convinced the Library of Congress website contains a phenomenal collection of resources for teachers and students to utilize in a variety of projects including VoiceThread, Comic Life, and any student presentation. For that reason, the Library of Congress website is worth the headache to navigate. I would start by checking out one of the links below.
- Browse by Topic – This area is fairly new and can be found by looking for the link under “Library Highlights.” When you click on Browse by Topic you’re taken to a list of topics. Choose one and you will find a collection of resources ranging from historical images, to maps and publications. You may also find audio or video files.
- Resources for Teachers – On the left side of the main page you will see a “Teachers” link under “Resources for.” This will take you to a page where you can choose Primary Resources Sets, Themed Resources, Lesson Plans, and Collection Connections. The last group, Collection Connections, takes you to a listing of many of the Library of Congress collections. When you click on one of the collections you will be taken to an over view of the collection along with ideas and guidelines for using these in your classroom.
- American Memory Project – The American Memory Project is part of the Library of Congress website that attempts to focus collections around particular topics or themes. An handy tool on this page is the “Today in History” link. By clicking on this link not only will you find out what happened on today’s date in history, but you will also have links to primary resources.
- Digital Collections – Right at the top of the main Library of Congress page you should see a link to Digital Collections. This will take you to a page categorizing many of the digital collections held by the Library of Congress. While there are multiple links of interest on this page, “Prints and Photographs” is worth a click. This particular group has about 75% of their collection digitized (compared with 8%-10% for the library overall). Now, this section isn’t the most beautiful online place (think of a circa 1998 website), but you can find resources fairly easily. One helpful hint shared by the presenter is that you have to often use terminology for when the resource you are looking for was created. In other words you might have to use search terms we no longer publicly speak aloud. Once again, the Library of Congress needs Google’s help, but this hopefully will help your searches.
- State Memories Project – The Library of Congress has worked with similar state and local level libraries who are cataloging information that is more specific to a local area. By clicking on the State Memories Project like you will be taken to an alphabetical listing of states. Navigate to your state of interest and you will be taken to a listing of libraries for that particular state. For example, by clicking on California I was taken to a listing for the California Digital Library , the home of Calisphere, where I found an interesting collection of primary resources on the environmental impact of gold mining during the Gold Rush era.