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Historypalooza 2019 – Google Arts and Culture is more than just a bazillion pretty pictures

It comes but once a year. The National Social Studies Supervisors Association and National Council for the Social Studies combined conference. For a history nerd, it’s the winter holiday break, the Final Four, and fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies all rolled into one event.

For three days, it’s about conversations that focus on social studies, tools, resources, evidence, and best practices. So what did I learn?


Kelsey Pacer and Laura Israelsen are my people. They may be more nuts about Googley stuff than I am and love sharing their favorite tools and ideas. I sat in on part of their My Maps session earlier in the week and this afternoon, they’re sharing some great ideas for using Google Arts and Culture.

If you never had the chance to visit Arts and Culture, you really need to set time aside to do some serious exploring. The site is dedicated to sharing artwork, places, collections, and museums from around the world in an accessible, digital way. You may not be able to take your students to Egypt and walk around the pyramids, Pompeii, or Machu Picchu. Or explore Anne Frank’s house. Or dive into Mayan ruins. Or browse through the collection of US president portraits at the National Portrait Gallery. Or simply search the thousands of artifacts and artwork that you can use as primary sources in your instructional units.

Arts and Culture gives you digital access to all of that and more.

The problem with trying to provide any sort of overview is that there is so much to see and do at Arts and Culture. But here’s a quick rundown from Kelsey and Laura.

Start by scrolling down through the front page

You’ll see some random themes and stories at the very top. These change every few days. Scrolling down takes you to Featured Stories. Open any of these to get in-depth coverage of a specific topic. During our NCSS session, I opened one titled 11 Secrets of Versailles. Each story usually has images, VR walkthroughs, informative text, and paintings. Click the small View All link on the far right to browse through over 10,000 stories.

If you’re asking kids to create digital stories using Google Tour Creator, Google Slides, or Adobe Spark, these stories are perfect for helping you to model the idea of storyboarding a product or project before starting.

Continue scrolling down and you’ll see Explore by Time and Color. Start with the Time option. The topic changes a few times a week and may not be something you’re interested in but it will give you an idea of how to use the timeline feature. Once you open the topic, click the clock icon to the right. Drag the timeline back and forth to get different resources. This is great for finding resources around a particular era or period. And so hang on . . . we’ll explore the timeline in a few.

Scrolling further gets you to Featured Themes, these are ever changing. Next, you’ll find Explore StreetView. Tap the View All button to the right to browse all of the VR options. Just below StreetView is the Zoom In area. These are hyper HQ images that allow you and your students to view details that may not be apparent at full size. At the bottom of the page, you get access to specific artists and museum collections.

Then head to the tabs across the top right:

Explore gives another way to browse through content – by categories, by time line, color, and popular topic. Nearby gives you a map of museums based on your current location. Clicking the Profile tab gives you access to your Favorites and your Galleries.

This is one of the most powerful pieces of Arts and Culture. Any time you or students are viewing an individual artifact or image, you can click the heart icon below that object to add it to your favorites. Once that object is in your favorites, you’re able to add those objects into Galleries that you create. (Or share them out via socail media, email, or Google Classroom.) Think your very own primary source sets. This is perfect for sharing content with your students and for creating writing / thinking prompts. Preview this John Brown gallery to get an idea of what this can look like.

john brown 850

And if you’re using Google Classroom, you can easily create an assignment or question right from the Arts and Culture interface by clicking the Share icon while in any of your Galleries. You can also copy and paste the Gallery link into social media or on your class website.

It’s just as perfect for your students to use as they create own galleries. Think asking students to collect evidence to create an argumentative essay or product. Or you create a gallery of 25 objects around the topic of the Civil War. Students have to create their own gallery from your list by selecting the five most important or most useful to telling that story and supporting their selection.

The Search function in the top right is your best friend here. There is so much content in Arts and Culture that this is often the best way to find what you’re looking for. Simply type in keywords like any other Google search and then pick and favorite what you want.

Plan on using a Library of Congress or National Archives analysis worksheet to help kids make sense of what they’re looking at.

Head to the hamburger menu on top left:

Tap the menu and you’ll see a whole list of things that you can find in other places on the site. It may be easier for you and kids to start here. Explore all of this (The Experiments is an especially fun place to spend some time) but the stuff you’ll find most useful are Historical Events, Historical Figures, and Places.






Opening any of these three tools takes you to a browse-able section that lets you to search more specific stuff. It’s still pretty broad so be sure to use the A-Z and Time filters.

When it comes down to it, the Search feature is probably going to be the most useful. But be sure to take advantage of the Favorite and Gallery option for saving and sharing whatever you find.

And don’t forget the mobile version of Google Arts and Culture, perfect for those of you using phones or iPads.

Get all of the Kelsey and Laura goodness in their presentation.

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