Visual Sources: Using Library of Congress Archives in the Classroom

This summer, Teachers College will host 25 in-service secondary social studies teachers from the greater New York City area in a week-long workshop on incorporating Library of Congress Archives into the classroom. Thanks to a generous grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program, this professional development opportunity will offer standards-aligned content for teachers wishing to learn about and practice using digital primary source documents as teaching resources.

TC Social Studies doctoral students Alexander Pope and Timothy Patterson, who were awarded the grant that will make the program possible and will serve as facilitators of the event, share a genuine interest in sharing their ideas with educators. Says Pope, “We both believe strongly in the pedagogical power of the tools used by historians to craft historical narratives, but are concerned that many teachers are unaware of the vast resources that are available literally at their fingertips in the digital archives of the Library of Congress.”

In an effort to help teachers explore how the Library of Congress digital source archive can help make history come alive for their students, Pope and Patterson will use guided readings, class discussions, and group work as they endeavor to lead participants through a process of critically investigating how historians construct works of narrative history. Pope cites a number of benefits for students whose teachers implement the use of primary sources into their curriculum. “Using digital primary sources to teach and learn about the past exercises both literacy and cutting edge technological skills, while also producing an appreciation for how historical accounts are created and a deeper understanding of the history of the United States.

Additionally, learners will examine how source document investigation preserves or challenges dominant social themes. Ultimately, teachers will be able to gather lesson ideas that are ready-to-use in their classrooms and learn how to use these resources to make social studies more relevant for their students. Facilitators Tim Patterson and Sandy Pope “hope that participants will gain a familiarity and level of comfort working with the primary sources in the digital archives housed by the Library of Congress, and also a space to revise their existing curricula, imbedding them with primary source-based activities.”

Visual Sources: Using Library of Congress Archives in the Classroom is a free program that will begin on August 20, 2012. Interested teachers should contact Alexander Pope at for information on how to apply for the program. Read more about program facilitators here.