Online Resources from the National Archives

By Potter, Lee Ann | Social Education, November-December 2003 | Go to article overview

Online Resources from the National Archives


Potter, Lee Ann, Social Education


The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the federal agency responsible for preserving and making available for research the permanently valuable records of the U.S. government. These records number in the billions, and thousands of them are available on the agency's website (www.archives.gov). The site provides numerous resources for educators and students, and virtually everything is in the public domain. Being familiar with the contents of the site and knowing how to search it will insure a fruitful visit.

Five areas on the site are of particular interest to teachers and students: The Digital Classroom, the Exhibit Hall, the National Archives Experience, the Presidential Libraries, and ARC (Archival Research Catalog). The Digital Classroom provides document-based lessons, arranged according to the eras identified in the National History Standards, which are correlated to the National Standards for History and for Civics and Government. The section also provides information on the agency's summer institute for teachers and other professional development opportunities.

The Exhibit Hall provides images of documents and the text of exhibits that have been presented at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., as well as at the Presidential Libraries. The National Archives Experience offers information on plans for the new permanent exhibit scheduled to open at the National Archives in the fall of 2004, and will provide numerous interactive opportunities. The Presidential Libraries link serves as a portal to the individual websites of each Presidential Library. Each library's site provides valuable resources--from audio files of President Kennedy's speeches, to thousands of documents related to important decisions made by President Truman, and more. Finally, the ARC database contains descriptions of about 20 percent of the agency's holdings and more than 124,000 digital copies of select textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings that represent a wide variety of National Archives holdings across the country.

There are two main ways to search the website. Conducting a "Basic Search" at www.archives.gov/search/index.html will retrieve pages from all parts of the site except for the ARC database. In order to retrieve items from the ARC database, a search must be conducted at arcweb.archives.gov/arc/basic_search.jsp.

Some of the resources in ARC include:

* More than 6,000 Mathew Brady photographs of Civil War-era personalities and scenes

* The Articles of Confederation

* Letter with which Robert E. Lee resigned from the U.S. Army

* The police blotter listing the assassination of President Lincoln

* The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (the GI Bill of Rights)

* President Woodrow Wilson's Mother's Day Proclamation of May 9, 1914

* The Emancipation Proclamation

* More than 100 Civilian Conservation Corps photographs taken between 1939 and 1941

* A copy of the motion filed on behalf of James Meredith

* The Kennedy family tree

* More than 100 photographs from the Kennedy White House

* More than 100 Civil War-era maps, charts, plans, and drawings

* About forty plans, engineering drawings, diagrams, blueprints, and sketches of Civil War forts

* About 300 photographs taken by John K. Hillers of the Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region led by John Wesley Powell

* About 500 photographs taken by Lewis Hine of child labor abuses for the National Child Labor Committee, 1908-1912

* Almost 200 photographs taken by Lewis Hine for the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933

* Almost 100 images from "Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War" by Alexander Gardner, 1861-1865

* More than 100 original sketches drawn by artist Charles Alston to highlight the participation of African Americans during World War II

* Thousands of photographs from the Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern in the 1970s (DOCUMERICA)

* Almost 300 World War I posters from the U. …

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