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Digital Vaults: Social networking for primary sources

Ran across a cool new site created by the National Archives people. (I’ve always enjoyed the National Archives Education page. If you haven’t been over there yet, ya gotta go. Some great lesson plans and resources tied to standards and primary sources!)

Their new site, Digital Vaults, is a different way to gather and use information. David Warlick has talked for several years about how “digital immigrants” (most of us!) are consumers of information and “digital natives” (most of our kids) see information as raw material. The problem with sites that are even as good as the NARA Education page is that the information is still organized in textual and linear ways. This makes it difficult for digital natives to access and mess with the data.

Digital VaultsDigital Vaults gives you and your kids a place to find raw materials that are arranged in ways that may make more sense to them. The site is set up a bit like a social network. Data is organized by tags and linked to both the tags as well as other resources. Like a social network, you can make your favorite documents / materials your “friends,” search for new “friends” by using tags and create “mashups” using primary sources.

All pretty neat stuff! If you’re looking for a new and easy way to suck kids into using and understanding primary source materials, this is the place to start.Digital Vaults

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. I think that what is especially interesting about these and similar projects is the use of tags, rather than categories, where resources can be infinitely interlinked logically.

    I’d love to see them open it up so that people like you and me and regular old 11th graders from Kansas (or North Carolina) might add our own tags to the resource, creating new links and paths. I believe that the this it was the new partnership project between the Library of Congress and Flicker is doing.

    thanks for sharing this. As a former history teacher, I got sucked right in!

    April 12, 2008
  2. glennw #


    All of the content areas have gained as a result of the internet’s growth but as an old history guy, I really think that the social studies have benefited the most.

    The digitization of all types of primary sources have been a boon for those teaching social studies. The problem has been that many digital archive sites are still organized using 19th century methods.

    Digital Vaults is one of the first sites that encourages a Web 2.0 type of organization. I do like your idea of adding a feature allowing users to add tags and other links.

    Thanks for the comment! Hope the Starbucks coffee was good today!


    April 12, 2008
  3. I saw my first presentation on using primary sources in the classroom conducted by Jamie McKenzie in 1995 (?) I was hooked! I presented at NECC for 5 years on using primary sources in the classroom and also presented on The Library of Congress.

    Since then I’ve done some great projects with my gifted elementary students using primary sources. The first one ended up being the best work I will ever do as a teacher– we used 54 WWII veterans as our primary sources and completed Guardians of Freedom 2001; In the Spring of 2007 we used cemeteries as primary sources and did CSI:Cemetery Scene Investigations and now we are using the original datasets and documents from the Titanic to complete Titanic in the Classroom 2008

    I actually think that access to primary sources is the best thing about the Internet and Digital Vault is way cool! Thanks for sharing, I’m going to mention you and the site on my primary source blog A Very Old Place Thanks again for the heads up. N.

    April 12, 2008
  4. glennw #


    It’s great hearing from you! I remember your vets project and the Kansas History award your kids won for their work.

    I appreciate all the work you’ve done that focuses on primary sources and look forward to your next project!


    April 12, 2008
  5. We were so proud of the veterans project, the computer we bought with the prize money just died this year! My lastest “fun thing” is the Titanic project mentioned above. The 6th graders started a comprehensive timeline using Mnemograph, I blogged aout it here. These are the projects I’ll miss when I retire.

    April 13, 2008
  6. Bea #

    I couldn’t agree more. Why stick to what is in your classroom when the whole world is searchable?

    We’ve been pushing primary sources with our Social Studies teachers this year. We created a Moodle course with a few ideas, and a Wiki page with a few resources. We’ll be adding to that Wiki page as we find more.

    Speaking specifically of NARA, they have posted bunches of really good videos on Google Video. Take a look. The newsreels from World War II are very interesting. I would consider much of that propaganda, especially the Department of the Interior videos showing how nicely the Native Americans are being treated in their reservations. Nevertheless, these are valuable videos for students to watch an interpret on their own.

    The Library of Congress did open up the tagging of resources to the public. They posted images from the 1910-1930 collections to Flickr and left them untagged. It is up to the users to do that.

    April 13, 2008
  7. I mentioned the flickr plus LOC here

    Also have you seen this? Potential to e very cool

    One of my student’s dad is the webguy at the Truman Library. You can see what he’s up to here

    April 13, 2008
  8. Thanks for this information! You rock!

    April 13, 2008
  9. Ugh–I think the Digital Vaults site is terrible. It is flashy and neat but nearly useless for gaining any kind of historical understanding. I blogged about it here:

    May 10, 2008

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Daily Bookmarks 04/12/2008 « Experiencing E-Learning
  2. Digital Vaults: National Archive Social networking for primary sources « Gaming & Learning
  3. » Leave Social Studies Textbooks behind for Technology Brian’s TRT Blog
  4. Digital Vaults « Welcome to my Web 2.0 Garden
  5. The requirements for a good history teacher « History Tech
  6. National Archives – Eyewitness Online Exhibit « History Tech
  7. The National Archives Experience: Digital Vaults | The Unquiet Librarian

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