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...Because Every Subject has a History...

Welcome to Primary Sources: Because Every Subject Has a History

by Connie Williams on 2019-05-26T14:19:00-07:00 | 0 Comments

 Let's start with a few questions:

1. This is a site about primary sources... what are primary sources?
       Primary sources are the stuff we use every day...and from which history is surmised. They include documents, pictures, music, speeches, and artifacts. They're meant for particular audiences at particular times (and sometimes they're not meant to be seen by anyone. Ever.).They are the documentation of an event or time from the folks who were there while it was going on. Evaluating these things allows us to dig down to the time of an event and  lets us imagine what it was like to be there.

2. Why this site?
           Consider this to be like a role-playing game starter pack: a bunch of curated sites that will get you started locating primary source material that you can use with your students. Once you’re comfortable with these... go for more.
            There is another goal in making this guide: to introduce you to important "thinking routines" and strategies that could easily make up the entirety of your teaching style from introduction of a topic to assessment...keeping student engagement in the forefront.
            This is a personal endeavor and not a part of any institution nor organization. I’ve learned a lot from the many excellent librarians, classroom teachers, administrators, and researchers I’ve encountered through the years. This is distillation of that expertise.

3. What does this mean: "Because Every Subject Has a History"?
          Most people think that only history teachers use and teach with primary sources. But truthfully... every subject has a history and every student of that subject needs to know and understand that history. Who spent countless hours perfecting a mathematical theory that supported the development of scientific thought, that created a cultural phenomenon that changed our lives?  As teachers we can engage our students with primary sources across all walks of life and within every subject area.

4. I'm confused. Sometimes something - like a newspaper - is considered a secondary source... but isn't it also a primary source?
      It depends on when it is viewed. Secondary sources like newspapers  often become primary sources as time goes by. The subtle difference is in how researchers use them in their work. A newspaper description of an event that used primary sources (video, audio, interviews, photos) from that event is a secondary source within its own time period. Many years later, researchers use that source to figure out what current thinking and knowledge might have been at the time.

5.  I notice that there are government sites here. Are all government documents primary sources?
         If the document, image, or artifact was created at the time of the event then it is considered a primary source. But the government also creates many items that are written about events, after they happen; think: reports, studies, bulletins, etc.

6. There's a blog here - what's that for?
     One of the hardest things for librarians to do is to effectively curate resources without overwhelming. I plan on picking out the best resources I can find while trying to keep them at a useable minimum - or should that be maximum? To that end, I will write a blog to highlight the fun stuff I encounter that can be used with the resources offered in this guide. If there's a cool subject...let's get students involved in using these resources first, then head out to the great vast internets to explore some more- armed with some basic facts so that they can use their critical thinking skills as they wander.  Enjoy!


Government information is a specific source of information and while this site includes government agencies, it also university collections, private collections, non-profit collections and other sources as they are found. For excellent links to government information for children see the site developed by government docs librarians:


Thank you to all the librarians and teachers and researchers who taught me the strategies, helped me teach them in classrooms and libraries, and learn from each and every one of you.

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