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Monday, March 10, 2014

Searching Chronicling America

Huntley librarian Pam Roberts made my day recently with an email talking about her work with a Child Growth and Development class. She said the students had a marvelous time researching child care and baby equipment in the advertisements of the historic newspapers on Chronicling America. (The differences between accepted practice then and now was "eye opening," she said.)

As many of you know, Chronicling America is one of my favorite sites. The Montana Historical Society is actively digitizing Montana newspapers. I just talked to the project coordinator and she expects many more Montana titles will be available soon.

Of course, new technology is always a little daunting, and in Chronicling America, as with all large digital collections, it can be difficult to find what you are looking for—especially at first. TPS Barat’s blog, which focuses on primary sources from the Library of Congress, has put together a very useful post “Advanced Search Tips: Chronicling America Historic Newspapers” that can make your (and your students’) research more fruitful.

If you are looking for even more guidance, consider using one of the lesson plans we’ve created with Billings school librarian Ruth Ferris.

“Thinking like a Historian: Using Digital Newspapers in the Classroom” asks students to explore daily life in Virginia City during the gold rush before the coming of the railroad, using the following essential questions: “How has life changed and how has it remained the same? How does transportation affect daily life? What would it have been like to live in Virginia City during the gold rush?”


Three additional Chronicling America lesson plans were included in the new study guide for Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan. Two of them can be adapted to use without reading the anchor text and can easily be adapted to other time periods. “What Can You Buy? What Could Mary Buy?” has students looking at advertisements today and in the 1860s, and choosing presents for themselves and their family. The second, “Found Poetry,” asks students to create a found poem, based on an article from the Montana Post.

Many other folks are also creating Chronicling America lesson plans. See here for more details. 

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