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Chronicling America Research Guides. Where have you been all my life?

I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of people who work at the Library of Congress. And they’ve all been awesome. I’m sure there’s probably one or two who work over there who are Las Vegas Raiders fans or who will tell you that they don’t like Kansas City Joe’s burnt ends. And other than those one or two, they’re all a pretty amazing group.

But after last week, my love for the Library of Congress and the people who work there has gone through the roof. I’ve talked about the Library’s amazing Chronicling America website before. And so you already know how powerful and useful I think Chronicling America is for social studies teachers and their students.

(Never visited and need the short version? Chronicling America has almost 200 years worth of digitized primary source newspapers available for scanning, analyzing, downloading, and printing. It’s searchable by keyword. By language. By state. By ethnicity. And it’s free.)

As we all continue finding ways to integrate inquiry-based learning activities into our classrooms, primary sources are the foundation for much of what we’re asking kids to do. Of course, part of the problem is finding primary sources that align with what we want kids to learn. Chronicling America can help.

But after last week? Things just got a whole lot easier. The reason?

Chronicling America Research Guides.

Okay . . . just so you know. Using Chronicling America has always been this easy but I didn’t know about the hidden menu of the Research Guides until just last week. And it’s not really hidden. There is a link to the Research Guides on the Chronicling America landing page. But its title is “Recommended Topics” and I never made the connection. I was actually poking around the Library of Congress site looking for something else when I ran across the research guides specifically for the Chronicling America site.

So if you’re already using Chronicling America but like me had no idea that Research Guides for the site existed . . . you’re welcome. And if you’re brand new to the tool, well . . . you’re off the charts smarter now.

So what does it look like when you use a LOC Chronicling America Research Guide?

Step One:

Head over to the Research Guide Intro page and bookmark it. You’ll want to make coming back easy.

Step Two:

Select an option from the menu along the left for your first search. For example, Selecting Guides by Date Range > 1930s gives you the option to explore the Dust Bowl: Topics in Chronicling America.

Step Three:

Once you’re on a specific Research Guide page, you’ve got a couple of options on the left: the Introduction and a Search Strategies and Selected Articles section. The Intro gives you some context and background for your topic and Search Strategies gives you some specific suggestions for more in-depth searches at Chronicling America.

Scrolling down the page provides links to specific newspaper articles in your topic.

Step Four:

Use the search suggestions and selected links to grab the newspapers that best fit your lesson. But don’t be afraid to go beyond the Research Guide. You can search the Chronicling America site by date, by state, and keyword. You can zoom in and out of the different papers and flip through the pages in each issue. You can get specific citation information.

Clicking the Advanced Search tab and the All Digitized Newspapers 1770-1963 tab that you can find along the top of the page gives you even more control over what you can find, including papers in a variety of languages and ethnicities.

Need some ideas of what your lessons might look like using the Research Guides? The teacher support folks over at the equally sweet EDSITEment site have a few suggestions:

As part of an inquiry-based approach to learning, students can:

  • construct DBQs to answer an essay or compelling question on a time or topic;
  • compare journalistic styles over time, including comparison of how news is reported in a 24-hour access culture compared to the turn of the 20th century;
  • prompt further investigation regarding events in U.S. history using the search by state feature to examine local impacts and incorporate them into the evaluation of national events;
  • analyze artistic differences and what is conveyed in a painting compared with a photograph or cartoon produced for a newspaper;
  • analyze paintings to identify themes and social issues of the time that are being addressed;
  • engage in inquiry to find artists not included in museums or official collections from that time to expand who is included;
  • pair newspapers and paintings with literary works to examine the historical context for when these works were published, what writers and artists were responding to, and to introduce competing perspectives that place the various sources in conversation with one another about a given topic or time.

The cool thing? The EDSITEment site also has some additional Chronicling America related items that can help:

Your Last Step?

Be sure to explore all of the Library of Congress Research Guides. Because . . . well, cause they’re awesome and will give you quick access to the rest of the Library’s massive amount of primary sources in much the same way they do for Chronicling America.

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