Best U.S. History Web Sites

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Library of Congress

An outstanding and valuable site for American history and general research. Contains primary and secondary files, exhibits, map collections, prints and photographs, sound recordings and motion pictures. The Library of Congress American Memory Historical Collections, a must-see, comprises the majority of digitalized materials, but the Exhibitions Gallery is enticing and enlightening as well. The Library of Congress also provides a Learning Page that provides tools, activities, ideas, and attributes for teachers and students.
The Library of Congress American Memory particularly is a superb resource for American history and general studies. Contained are multimedia collections of photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures, and digitized text. Utilize the Teachers department to research main set collections and themed tools. Teachers can get updates on new programs, professional development opportunities, and Library programs, events and services.
The Library of Congress: Teachers
The new Library of Congress Teachers page provides resources and tools to using Library of Congress primary source documents in the classroom and contain excellent lesson plans, document analysis tools, online and offline activities, timelines, presentations and professional development resources.
Center for History and New Media: History Matters
A Creation of the American Social History Project/Center of Media and Learning, City of University New York, along with the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, History Matters is a wonderful online resource for history teachers and students. Among the many digital tools are lesson plans, syllabi, links, and exhibits. The middle for History and New Media’s resources include a list of”best” web sites, links to syllabi and lesson plans, essays on history and new websites, a link for their excellent History Matters web site for U.S. History, and more. The CHNM History News Network is a weekly web-based magazine that features articles by several historians. Resources are intended to benefit specialist historians, higher school teachers, and students of history.
Teaching American History
This is a wonderful collection of thoughtful and comprehensive lesson plans and other tools on teaching American history. Each job was created by educators in Virginia at a Center for History and New Media workshop. All projects include a variety of lesson plans and resources, and some even provide educational videos on supply analysis. The lesson plans cover a range of topics in American history and use engaging and interesting sources, activities, discussion questions, and assessments. Take your time browsing–you will find many to select from.
National Archives and Records Administration
The NARA offers federal archives, displays, classroom resources, census documents, Hot Topics, and more. In addition to its paper holdings (which will circle the Earth 57 days ) it’s over 3.5 billion electronic records. Users can research people, locations, events and other popular topics of interest, in addition to ancestry and military records. Additionally, there are features exhibits drawing from many of those NARA’s favorite sources. One of the most requested holdings would be the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, WWII photographs, along with the Bill of Rights.
The National Archives: Teachers’ Resources
The National Archives Lesson Plans section comprises incorporates U.S. primary files and its excellent teaching tasks correlate to the National History Standards and National Standards for Civics and Government. Lessons are organized by averaging era, from 1754 to the present.
Digital Vaults
The National Archives Experience: Digital Vaults is an interactive exploration of background that assesses thousands of documents, photos, and pieces of history which have been incorporated in a digital format. Upon entering the homepage, the consumer is given eight random archives to choose from. Clicking on one will give a description and a brief history of the record, as well as displays a huge variety of archives that are similar. The user has the capability to shuffle, rearrange, gather, and explore archives, as well as search for certain points in history utilizing a key word search. Although too little initial organization or index might seem overwhelming, Digital Vaults is a wonderfully imaginative source for investigating history in a compiled manner.
Teach Documents With DocsTeach, educators can create interactive history activities that incorporate more than 3,000 primary-source substances in a variety of media in the National Archives. Tools on the site are made to teach critical thinking skills and incorporate interactive elements such as maps, puzzles, and charts.
Our Records Offers 100 milestone documents, compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration, and drawn primarily from its nationwide holdings, that chronicle United States history from 1776 to 1965. Attributes a teacher’s toolbox and competitions for students and teachers.
PBS Online
A great resource for information on a myriad of historical events and personalities. PBS’s assorted and diverse web displays supplement their television show and generally include a list of each incident, interviews (often with sound bites), a timeline, primary sources, a glossary, photos, maps, and links to pertinent sites. PBS productions include American Experience, Frontline and People’s Century. Proceed to the PBS Teacher Source for lessons and activities — organized by topic.
PBS Teacher Source Proceed to the PBS Teacher Source for lessons and activities — arranged by subject and grade level — and then subscribe to their newsletter. Groups include American History, World History, History on Television, and Biographies. Many lessons include primary sources. Some lessons require viewing PBS video, but many do not.
Smithsonian Education
The Smithsonian Education website is divided only into three chief categories: Educators, Families, and Students. The Educators section is key word searchable and features lesson plans — many pertaining to background. The Students section features an interactive”Secrets of the Smithsonian” that educates about the special collections in the Smithsonian.
The Price of Freedom: Americans at War
This Smithsonian website skillfully integrates Flash text and video to analyze armed conflicts involving the U.S. in the Revolutionary War to the war in Iraq. Each conflict includes a brief video clip, statistical advice, and a pair of artifacts. There’s also a Civil War puzzle, an exhibition self-guide, and a teacher’s guide. The New American Roles (1899-present) section contains an introductory film and brief essay on the conflict in addition to historic artifacts and images.
Edsitement — The Best of the Humanities on the Internet EDSITEment is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Humanities, Verizon Foundation, and the National Trust for the Humanities. All websites linked to EDSITEment have been reviewed for content, design, and educational impact in the classroom. This impressive website features reviewed links to top websites, professionally developed lesson plans, classroom activities, materials to help with daily classroom planning, and search engines. You can search lesson plans from subcategory and grade level; middle school lessons are the most numerous.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
There’s much quality material for art students, educators, and enthusiasts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art web site. Start with the Metropolitan Museum of Art Timeline of Art History, a chronological, geographical, and thematic exploration of the history of art from across the world. Each timeline page includes representative artwork from the Museum’s collection, a graph of time periods, a map of the area, an overview, and a listing of important events. The timelines — accompanied by world, regional, and sub-regional maps — provide a linear outline of art history, and allow visitors to compare and contrast art from around the world at any time ever. There is plenty more here besides the Timeline:”Just for Fun” has interactive activities for kids,”A Closer Look” assesses the”hows and whys” behind Met items (like George Washington Crossing the Delaware),”Artist” enables visitors to access biographical materials on a choice of artists in addition to general information regarding their job, and”Themes and Cultures” presents past and current cultures with special features on the Met’s collections and exhibitions.
C-SPAN in the Classroom
Access C-SPAN’s complete program archives including all videos. C-SPAN from the Classroom is a free membership service that offers advice and tools to assist teachers in their use of source, public affairs video from C-SPAN television. You don’t need to be a member to utilize C-SPAN online resources in your classroom, but also membership includes entry to teaching ideas, tasks and classroom tools.
Digital History
This impressive site from Steven Mintz at the University of Houston includes an up-to-date U.S. history textbook; annotated primary resources on United States, Mexican American, and Native American background, and captivity; and succinct essays about the background of ethnicity and immigration, film, personal life, and science and technology. Visual histories of Lincoln’s America and America’s Reconstruction include text from Eric Foner and Olivia Mahoney. The Doing History feature lets users reconstruct the past through the voices of kids, gravestones, advertisements, and other primary sources. Reference resources include classroom handouts, chronologies, encyclopedia articles, glossaries, along with an abysmal archive including speeches, book talks and e-lectures by historians, and historical maps, songs, newspaper articles, and graphics. The site’s Ask the HyperHistorian feature lets users pose questions to professional historians.
Civil Rights Special Collection
The Teachers’ Domain Civil Rights Collection is Made by WGBH Boston, in partnership with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Washington University in St. Louis. Materials are free but you have to sign up. Features an impressive array of sound, video, and text sources from Frontline and American Experience shows, Eyes on the Prize, along with other sources. Also offers an interactive Civil Rights movement deadline and four lesson plans: Campaigns for Economic Freedom/Re-Examining Brown/Taking a Stand/Understanding White Supremacy.
Science and Technology of World War II
Some of the most impressive technology advancements of the modern era happened during World War II and the National World War II Memorial has 8000 objects directly linked to science and engineering. This impressive exhibit includes an animated timeline, activities (such as sending encoded messages), professional sound responses to science and engineering questions, lesson plans, a quiz, essays, and more. An impressive presentation.
Voting America: United States Politics, 1840-2008
Voting America examines long-term patterns in presidential election politics in the USA from the 1840s to today in addition to some patterns lately congressional election politics. The job offers a wide spectrum of interactive and animated visualizations of how Americans voted in elections within the last 168 years. The visualizations can be used to explore individual elections beyond the country level down to individual counties, which allows for more sophisticated analysis. The interactive maps highlight exactly how significant third parties have played in Western political history. You can also locate expert analysis and comment videos that discuss a few of the most intriguing and significant trends in American political history.
Do History: Martha Ballard
DoHistory invites you to explore the process of piecing together the lives of regular people previously. It is an experimental, interactive case study based on the study that went into the book and PBS film A Midwife’s Tale, which were both based upon the remarkable 200 year old diary of midwife/healer Martha Ballard. There are hundreds and hundreds of downloadable pages from original records: diaries, maps, letters, court records, town records, and much more as well as a searchable copy of the twenty-seven year diary of Martha Ballard. DoHistory engages users interactively with historic artifacts and documents from the past and introduces people to the pivotal questions and issues raised when”doing” history. DoHistory was designed and preserved by the Film Study Center at Harvard University and is hosted and maintained by the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University.
The Valley of the Shadows The Valley of the Shadow depicts two communities, one Northern and one Southern, through the experience of the American Civil War. The project focuses on Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and it poses a hypermedia archive of thousands of resources that makes a social history of their coming, combating, and aftermath of the Civil War. These sources include newspapers, letters, diaries, photographs, maps, church records, population census, agricultural census, and military records. Students may learn more about the conflict and write their own histories or reconstruct the life stories of women, African Americans, farmers, politicians, soldiers, and families. The project is intended for secondary schools, community colleges, libraries, and universities.
Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704
The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association/Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, Massachusetts has launched a rich and impressive website which focuses on the 1704 raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts, with the objective of commemorating and reinterpreting the event from the perspectives of all the cultural groups who were present — Mohawk, Abenaki, Huron, French, and English. The website brings together many sources — historical scenes, stories of people’s lives, historic artifacts and papers, essays, voices and songs, historic maps, along with a deadline — to light broad and competing perspectives on this spectacular event.
Lewis and Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition
The Missouri Historical Society has developed an extensive award-winning website and web-based curriculum designed to match their own Lewis and Clark, The National Bicentinnal Exhibiton. Written for grades 4-12, the components concentrate on nine important topics of the display and feature hundreds of primary sources in the display. The curriculum uses the Lewis and Clark expedition as case studies for bigger themes like Diplomacy, Mapping, Animals, Language, and Trade and Property. It presents both the Euro-American standpoint and a particular Native American perspective. The online exhibit has two sections. One is a thematic approach that highlights the material in the main galleries of the display. The other is a map-based journey which follows the expedition and presents main sources on the way, including interviews with present-day Native Americans.
The Sport of Life and Death
The Sport of Life and Death has been voted Best Overall Site for 2002 by the Internet and has won a ton of other web awards. The website is based on a traveling exhibition currently showing at the Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey and bills itself as”an online travel into the ancient spectacle of athletes and gods.” The Sport of Life and Death features amazing special effects courtesy of Macromedia Flash technologies and its overall design and organization are superb. You will find helpful interactive maps, timelines, and samples of art in the Explore the Mesoamerican World section. The attention of the site, however, is the Mesoamerican ballgame, the oldest organized sport in history. The game is explained through a beautiful and engaging combination of images, text, expert commentary, and video. Visitors can even compete in a contest!
The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory
A first-rate exhibition created by the Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University. There are two major components: the background of Chicago from the 19th century, and the way the Chicago Fire has been recalled over time. Included are essays, galleries, and even sources.
Tech in the U.S. History in the Classroom
Here are some creative, engaging and technology-infused lessons & web sites on U.S. History:
“Day in Life of Hobo” podcast
This interdisciplinary creative writing/historical simulation action incorporates blogging and podcasting and calls on students to find out more about the plight of homeless teenagers during the Great Depression and then make their own fictionalized account of a day in the life span of a Hobo. This project will be included in the spring edition of Social Education, published by the National Council of Social Studies.
“Telling Their Stories” — Oral History Archive Project of the Urban School
See”Telling Their Stories” and read, watch, and listen to perhaps the best student-created oral history project in the country. High School students in the Urban School of San Francisco have generated three impressive oral history interviews featured at this website: Holocaust Survivors and Refugees, World War II Camp Liberators, and Japanese-American Internees. Urban school students conducted, filmed, and transcribed interviews, generated hundreds of movie files associated with every transcript, then posted the full-text, full-video interviews on this public website. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has acknowledged Urban School’s Telling Their Stories project using a Leading Edge Recognition award for excellence in technology integration. Teachers interested in running an oral history project can contact Urban School technology director Howard Levin and ought to think about attending his summer teacher workshop.
Student News Action Network
This student-produced current events diary includes contributions from around the globe and is directed by five student-bureaus: The American School of Doha, Bishops Diocesan College, International School Bangkok, International School of Luxembourg, along with Washington International School. The pupils have adopted the free Ning platform and far-flung students work tirelessly to create an interactive, multimedia-rich, and student-driven online newspaper.
“Great Debate of 2008″
Tom Daccord produced a wiki and a private online social network for its”Great Debate of 2008” job, a student exploration and discussion of issues and candidates surrounding the 2008 presidential elections. The project connected pupils around the nation at a wiki and a personal online social network to share ideas and information related to the 2008 presidential elections. Pupils post information on campaign issues into the wiki and partake in online discussions and survey together with other students in the personal online social networking.
The Flat Classroom Project
The award-winning Flat Classroom job brings together large school and middle school students from all over the world to explore the ideas presented in Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat. These collaborative projects harness the most powerful Web 2.0 tools available including wikis, online social networks, digital storytelling, podcasts, social bookmarking, and much more.

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