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21st century museums: Bringing history to life with Google Cultural Institute

Google is obviously good at helping you find stuff. So good, in fact, that the word itself has become a verb.

But Google is very good at other things as well. Maps. Content creation. Communication.

And recently Google has begun to dip its toe into the world of museum curation and archiving. I’ve posted some stuff about the awesome World Wonders Project but Google has some other cool history/social studies related things going on:

What’s their latest museum-like project?

The Google Cultural Institute.

With the Google Cultural Institute,

you can discover 42 new online historical exhibitions telling the stories behind major events of the last century, including Apartheid, D-Day, and the Holocaust. The stories have been put together by 17 partners including museums and cultural foundations who have drawn on their archives of letters, manuscripts, first-hand video testimonials and much more. Much of the material is very moving—and some is on the Internet for the first time.

It is different way for us as history teachers to think about primary and secondary sources, about how museums are supposed to look and feel. I’m not sure how 21st century archives should look like, even less sure about how we as teachers use them but the Cultural Institute seems like a good start.

At their most basic level, the exhibits on the Cultural Institute website act like timelines – with the ability to scroll back and forth chronologically. On that timeline, the Google curators have attached images, text, video clips, documents, and resources that can be viewed by visitors to the exhibit. The software allows for each a close examination of each of the documents (most artifacts include the option of slider to zoom in and out of the artifact) and provides additional details for each of the exhibit pieces.

You also have the ability to Search and Explore the site for exhibits as well as specific pieces of data. There are millions of pieces of evidence in the collection – a simple search on a specific keyword will list thousands of hits for you and your students to mess with.

And the collection continues to grow but already you can find amazing pieces on such topics as D-Day, Anne Frank, the Holocaust, and South African Apartheid.

Use the exhibits as a way to introduce a unit, have kids use the resources to create their own digital or print exhibits, lead conversations about why the collection choose to include certain resources but not others, use the images to practice analysis skills, evaluate and source documents as part of your instruction – it seems as if there are all sorts of ways to use the resources  on the site.

There’s even a handy video that you can use with your kids to help understand how to use the site:

Google. It’s not just for searching anymore.

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