Chronicling America, historical newspapers, and maps
If the Library of Congress Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers website is not already part of your go-to primary sources toolkit, put your coffee down and bookmark it already. Chronicling America is a huge collection of digitized newspapers from around the United States published between 1836 and 1925. There are a variety of ways to search the database but no matter how you search, you get visual reproductions of complete newspaper pages that contain your search terms.
Say you want your students to compare and contrast contemporary accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg. Head over to the Chronicling America site, adjust the dates to limit the search to 1863, and type in your keywords of “battle gettysburg.” Over 800 results appear.
I will often filter the results by clicking the “Show only front pages” box and now I’m down to around 200. I also usually select the List view rather than the gallery view to start – I can scan more quickly through the list. (Though the gallery view does highlight your keywords where they appear on each page, giving you an idea of the amount of coverage.)
Once you find the page you’re looking for, you have several options for using that page. You can zoom in or out to get more or less detail. You get a URL for that particular page – handy for sharing with students via email or social media, embedding on Google Classroom, or on posting on a webpage.
You can download the newspaper page as a text file, a PDF, or a photo – allowing you to manipulate that file, add to a presentation, or insert into an app such as Adobe Video. You can also “clip” the page to print or download in a more traditional way.
Of course, your students are going to use the Library of Congress document analysis sheet. Or the one from the National Archives. Or the SHEG historical thinking chart that also provides helpful scaffolding questions.
Pretty sweet stuff.
But wait. There’s more.
The Georgia Tech Research Institute and eHistory.org at the University of Georgia folks have added a new wrinkle to using Chronicling America. Their tool, titled USNewsMap, allows you and your kids to search and visualize the search results across space and time. It’s a geotagged and searchable archive of Chronicling America that creates a heatmap of how often those terms appeared in news stories throughout the states during your chosen time period. Students can dig deeper by clicking on the map and examining specific newspapers from the time period that mention their terms.
One of the neat tricks of USNewsMap is a pause and play slider that shows geographic dots pop up in chronological order. So you and kids can see not just when their search terms appear but where. This connection to place can add complexity and depth to your conversation.
Clicking the newspaper titles then pops open the full Chronicling America site with all of its bells and whistles.
You and your kids get the best of all worlds: primary sources, maps, and the Library of Congress.