History Experience

History Experience: Primary Sources for U.S. History

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Primary Sources for U.S. History

Government Sources | Other Sources |Sound | Images | Advertisements

Government Sources for Documents

Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Library of Congress

American Memory Collections on all aspects of American life.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers Pages from America’s historic newspapers from 1836–1922.

National Jukebox A vast collection of historical music and spoken word recordings.


Primary Documents in American History

National Archives

Our Documents

Teaching With Documents: Lesson Plans

Online Exhibits

America’s Historical Documents

Presidential Libraries

National Parks Service: History & Culture

Calisphere Sponsored by the University of California, the site has photographs, maps, artwork, letters, news clippings, and other documents about California.

Other Sources for Documents

Yale Law School: Avalon Project

Oklahoma Law Center: A Chronology of U.S. Historical Documents From pre-colonial to the present.

Documents for the Study of American History Documents from 800 to the present.

From Revolution to Reconstruction: Documents Despite the title, it goes from before 1400 to present.

HistoryCentral: American Source Documents

American Slave Narratives 

American Journeys Eyewitness accounts of North American exploration.

New York Times: Time Machine Browse through every page of the paper from 1851–1922. (You must subscribe to the paper.)

Harvard Library: Open Collections Program

New York Public Library Digital Gallery Many historical collections. Most of the pictures in these collections date before 1923 and are in the public domain.

Consource A huge collection of neat primary source documents on the Constitution.

Historical Journals and Diaries Online Links to online diaries and journals.

Historypin You can click on a map, or put in a specific address, and find historic photographs and people’s stories about the location.


American Rhetoric: Online Speech Bank Thousands of full text and audio and video versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, and other recorded media events. The site is a bit clunky and contains ads, but you can easily access the speeches. One thing: When searching for a speaker, e.g., FDR, you look under F instead of R.

Images (Public domain photographs, paintings, and cartoons on U.S. history)

Wikipedia and its companion site Wikimedia Commons Thousands of public domain images. These sites are the easiest to use.

Library of Congress

Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

American Memory

Pictorial Americana Digitized photographs on U.S. history to 1899.

U.S. History Images A large collection of public domain images.

A Clipart History Public Domain images of the History of the World. Also Natural History and Fancy Letters suitable for school projects.

The Newgate Calendar Mostly crimes and criminals from the 18th century. Also other works from Ex-Classics.

Liam’s Pictures From Old Books Collection images scanned from various old books that are now in the public domain. Searchable.

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library Yale University’s online collection of digital images includes 90,000 images from rare books and manuscripts. Search by keyword.

New York Public Library Over 500,000 images scanned from books, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.

Old Book Illustrations Images scanned from old books. The site states that images are the works of artists who “have been dead for over seventy years, which makes them part of the public domain in many countries.” Searchable by keywords.

America As It Was A huge resource for vintage postcards in the U.S., organized by state.

Yestercards A very large free database of vintage greeting cards and postcards published in the U.S. Indexed. Organized by category.

World War II Poster Collection Over 300 posters issued by U.S. Federal agencies.

Photos of the Great War Many images of World War I, scanned from public domain resources.

Heritage of the Great War has several color pictures from World War I (likely all public domain).

History Place: Child Labor in America 1908– 1912 Photos by Lewis W. Hine.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Thousands of online, copyright free photographs of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II.

See also Images and Pictures Links CRF’s collection of links to pictures, cartoons, and other digital image collections.

Copyright-Friendly and Copyleft (Mostly!) Links to sources for finding images and sounds that are either in the public domain or allow usage for educational purposes.


Ad*Access Images and database information for thousands of ads printed in U.S. and Canadian publications between 1911 and 1955.

Vintage Ad Browser A huge collection of vintage ads from about the 1830s to present.

History Experience: Preparing a Project

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Preparing a Project

Posters | Writing | Multimedia | Images for Projects | Local libraries, museums, and other places where you can find resources



Wordle You can turn famous documents or any any text into a “word cloud.” You provide the text, and Wordle provides the graphics.

WikiHow: How to Make a Poster

How to Make a Poster PDF

Creating Effective Poster Presentations | An Effective Poster Step-by-step instructions and even video guides for creating posters. From North Carolina State University.

Do’s and Don’ts of Poster Presentation PDF. From Stanford University.

The 60-Minute Emergency Poster Guide Simple steps for making a poster.

Glogster Create “Glogs” — interactive posters loaded with text, graphics, music, videos, and more.



Tools for creating online slide shows

Big Huge Labs Create a slideshow from images anywhere on the Internet.

Bookr Create and share a photo book using Flickr.

My Brainshark Create, share and track online and mobile video presentations..

Knovio Polish your PowerPoint presentations with online tools on this site.

MentorMob Create “learning playlists.”


Mixbook Create a custom photo book.

9Slides Show slides and video. First five presentations are free.

Prezi A presentation tool that helps you organize and share your ideas.

Rewindy Tool that lets you upload photos, add text, and create slide shows.

SlideBomb and SlideBomb Academy Tools for slideshows that let you add Youtube videos, Google Maps, images, links to images, text, and more to your slides.

Slidestaxx Create slideshows.



Yodio Create narrated a photo album.

Free website creation:





Making a Presentation: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three   Google Docs Create, share, and collaborate on the web with documents, presentations, and more.

18 Best Video Editing Software For Free Download (Windows)


Websites to Find Images for Projects 

Wikipedia and its companion site Wikimedia Commons Thousands of public domain images. These sites are the easiest to use.
Edupics Coloring pages, pictures, photographs, and handicraft.

Icon Search Engine Search for graphics using keywords.

flickrCC Find photos on flickr that were released under the creative commons license (meaning you can use them for school projects). Search using keywords. The panel on the left will show the first 36 photos matching your search term. Click on any of these thumbnails to get a larger image. Right click the image and 'save image as' if you want to use the image.

Photos8 Free stock photos.

For many more images, see Images (Public domain photographs, paintings, and cartoons on U.S. history) and Images and Pictures Links.


Local Libraries, Museums, and Other Places Where You Can Find Resources

History Experience: Declaration of Independence Links

History Experience Home Page <<

Links for the Declaration of Independence

Enlightenment | Declaration of Independence | Thomas Jefferson | John Locke



Wikipedia: Age of Enlightenment

Citizendium: The Enlightenment

Enlightenment An overview. From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Enlightenment Links to primary sources on the Enlightenment. From Internet Sourcebook.

Open Directory Project: Enlightenment and Eighteenth Century Links.

Yahoo Directory: 18th Century Links.

Declaration of Independence

Wikipedia: U.S. Declaration of Independence

Citizendium: Declaration of Independence

What Was the Declaration of Independence? An interview with historian Pauline Maier, author of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence, 28 June, 1776 What the document looked like when he turned it over to the committee.

Final Text of the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

Charters of Freedom: Declaration of Independence Image and information on the declaration. From National Archives.

Primary Documents in American History: Declaration of Independence From the Library of Congress.

Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government: Declaration of Independence The document and links to much more.

Open Directory Project: Declaration of Independence Links.

Yahoo Directory: U.S. Declaration of Independence Links.

Thomas Jefferson

White House: Thomas Jefferson A biography of the third president.

Wikipedia: Thomas Jefferson

Citizendium: Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson: 3rd President of the United States Listing of information about Jefferson. From Internet Public Library.

American President: Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) Basic information about Jefferson with links to more information. From the Miller Center.

Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive A guide to the University of Virginia’s collections on Thomas Jefferson and links to other resources about Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia From the Thomas Jefferson Foundation/Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson: A Resource Guide From Library of Congress.

Open Directory Project: Thomas Jefferson Links.

Yahoo Directory: Thomas Jefferson Links.

John Locke

John Locke (1632–1704) An overview of his life and writings. From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

John Locke His life and philosophy. From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Wikipedia: John Locke

Citizendium: John Locke

Excerpts from his Second Treatise of Government From Hanover College’s history department.

Second Treatise of Government by John Locke The complete text. From Project Gutenberg.

John Locke: E-Text Archive A library of all his works.

Open Directory Project: John Locke Links.

Yahoo Directory: John Locke (1632–1704) Links.

History Experience

History Experience

The History Experience offers elementary, middle, and high school students opportunities to develop and enhance their research, writing, and critical thinking skills while they deepen their understanding and appreciation of history and civics.


Lessons Overview  



Research Links

Declaration of Independence

Primary Sources (documents, images, ads, sounds)

Preparing a Project




Websites to Find Images for Projects

Local libraries, museums, and other places where you can find resource



History Experience Lessons Overview

History Experience Home Page <<

Lesson 1: Introductory Lesson

This two–day lesson, driven by a PowerPoint slide presentation, introduces the History Experience.

On day one, students first learn that in the History Experience they will act as historians. They discuss what historians do. Then they are shown a slide of Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre and answer document-based questions about it. Finally, they learn background information about what led to the Boston Massacre.

On day two, students briefly review what they have learned. Then in small groups, they are given snippets of testimony from the Boston Massacre trials, answer questions related to the testimony, and critique the accuracy of Revere’s engraving. Finally, they learn about the Boston Massacre trials and hold a discussion about the engraving and about what historians do.

Lesson 2: Writing the Declaration of Independence

This two-day lesson examines the Declaration of Independence and the key ideas behind it.

On day one, students first explore the purpose of government as they react to the question: Why does government exist? Next, they read an article on the reasons behind the Declaration of Independence and engage in a discussion on it.

On day two, students review the previous session, and then they work in pairs to put the historic second paragraph of the document into their own words.

Lesson 3: The Declaration’s Ideas

This two–day lesson (with an optional third day) examines the ideas in the Declaration of Independence and the controversy surrounding slavery.

On day one, students read a short article on the declaration and engage in a discussion on its key ideas and the contradictions between its ideals and slavery.

On day two, working in small groups, students create a poster to demonstrate their understanding of key ideas expressed in the document and express why they think these ideas are important today. The practice of creating the poster will also introduce them to the type of project they will create for the History Experience.

Lesson 4: Historical Research

In this lesson, students learn about the skills and methods that historians use in order to help them prepare their own research for their History Experience project. First, students participate in a focus discussion to review primary and secondary sources. Then in a PowerPoint presentation, students learn about the practice of historical research using the example of Walter Lord’s research into the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Next, in a small-group activity, students examine a source related to the Titanic, determining what it is, why it was created, what information it provides, and what other sources might be helpful in expanding that information. Finally, students present their source in a gallery-walk activity that simulates a historical museum.

Lesson 5: Reliability of Sources

In this PowerPoint-driven lesson, students learn how to evaluate the reliability of their sources. First, students answer questions about an unfamiliar picture to test the accuracy of their points of view. Next, students discuss how to detect point of view and bias in sources. They examine the death of Davy Crockett at the Alamo during the Texas War for Independence. Using the INSPECT method of source-analysis, students participate in a jigsaw activity to evaluate the reliability of the diary of Jose Enrique de la Peña and other first-person accounts of Crockett’s death.