Primary Resources Matter
A Concluding Post for my PBS TeacherLine Online Course “Teaching With Primary Sources from the Library of Congress”:
Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without experience. Examining primary sources gives students a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past. Helping students analyze primary sources can also guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills.
Resources matter. How we reflect on them matters too. Sometimes our students get caught up in their impression of what is said and who is saying it. They mix their opinion of the source with source definition. But students of Historiography tell us this does not change the efficacy of the resource itself.
For example, there has been a renewed interest here in Ireland on the events of the 1916 Easter Rising, also referred to as the Rising. Researchers are returning to primary sources such as journals, diaries, death records, and cemetery listings to discover that many more people died than previously thought in the uprising for Irish Independence from Britain. One historian, Ray Bateson continues to search for a comprehensive listing of the previously unrecognized heroes of the Rising (see photo below). Although records of the Irish Easter Rising are scant in the United States’ Library of Congress, it is significant to note that the importance of Primary Resources is part of global endeavors.
Perhaps the best benefit of online courses is the time given (even encouraged) for reflection and consideration. How many times have I sat in a face-to-face classroom listening to the discussion and then as soon as I get to my car an idea screams to be included, but class is already over. Is that just my singular experience?
In Week 3, we will look at whether resources have to be codified only as Primary and Secondary. Wonderful insights and information this week! Looking forward to continuing on to Week 3!!!