"When I was in school, I didn't like history. Now I wish I had paid more attention, because l find it absolutely fascinating." -- Overheard at a New Year's Eve party
For many young people, change over time is an abstraction that is hard to grasp. As they grow older, history happens to them. As students live through each decade, with its popular fads as well as important events, change and its causes and consequences becomes personal and compelling. History comes alive not from the reading, but from the doing.
Is there any way to make the personal connection to history sooner? How can we help students view history as relevant? I believe that oral histories are one answer. The Internet has made these personal records, this social history, more easily available to all teachers and students through numerous online archives. It is increasingly easy for students to publish their work on the web, which creates a new purpose for students to "do the discipline" through oral history projects.
The People's Library
The American Memory Project of the Library of Congress aims to be the premier site on the World Wide Web that makes oral history available to students, young and old, as a tool to learn from and to use.(1) The collection begins with materials from the Federal Writers Project, which was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program from 1936-1940. This website has grown to mega proportions, with rare records, interviews, and other primary documents of all kinds available for free viewing. There are now 70 collections (and many more are under development), which students can access through a key word search or by selecting from broad themes in the Collection Hnder. Three other collections that are (to …