The Special Collections Research Center works with educators and learners at GWU as well as those from local universities, middle schools, and high schools to bring primary sources into coursework and instruction. Our experienced and knowledgeable staff support the teaching mission of the university and work closely with educators to design activities, assignments, and projects with primary sources, whether through a single class visit or an extended project based in the collections. We are committed to creating student learning experiences that are equitable and accessible. We provide instruction on conducting effective research utilizing paper-based and digital primary sources and rare books and our approach to teaching is grounded in the Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy.
We are available to help you design engaging and meaningful synchronous and/or asynchronous classroom activities and assignments that make use of digital collections in order to meet a wide variety of learning objectives. This includes, but is not limited to, curating digital primary sources sets around the theme of your course from our digital collections, library databases, and the open web.
Resources for Teaching and Learning with Primary Sources
We curate primary source sets (in-person or remote) for students to interpret and engage in document analysis, construct narratives among sources, connect documents to historical context, and contribute to scholarly communications through transcription, annotation, exhibition, and other activities. We can also help introduce learners to primary source research online using digital collections and surrogates to help students understand the context of a digital source, engage with data, and make connections between digital materials and course themes.
- Contact us to discuss available digital collections to support your courses and options for curated collections and/or instruction on how to locate digital collections at GW and elsewhere.
- Browse our subject guides to the collections and view lists of materials used for previous and current courses.
- Explore examples of primary source lesson plans at TeachArchives.org, many of these are easily adaptable to an online environment
- Consider the Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy
- Engage with available crowdsourced transcription projects, including: Zooniverse People-Powered Research Projects, Smithsonian Digital Volunteers, LOC’s By the People Project, UIowa’s DIY History or contact Leah Richardson for options from GW’s collections—and don’t forget these useful tips for reading old handwriting
- Read about Teaching with Digital Primary Sources: Literacies, Finding and Evaluating, Citing, Ethics, and Existing Models and Digital Facsimiles
- Think about building bridges to critical reading in a digital context