Are you kidding me? Seriously?
Thousands of historical newspapers from all over the country? Yup. And over 7,892,470 actual newspaper pages? Let that sink in for just a moment. Yup. But where, you ask, can I find such an incredible research tool? The very useful Chronicling America site from the Library of Congress, of course.
You’d think I’d be happy with almost eight million pages to play with. I mean, it’s 7,892,470 pages. Which is . . . you know, a lot. The 7,892,470+ pages cover newspapers from almost all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 1836 to 1922.
But once you get in the collection, it’s easy to get a little greedy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some coverage from the Civil War? The Great Depression? Prohibition? WWII? Vietnam? Hippies? 9/11?
Still . . . 7,892,470+ pages. Westward expansion, Populism, Native Americans, Spanish-American War, Teddy Roosevelt, World War One. There’s some biggies in there.
I remember a project that I was assigned during my grad work. We were tasked to do historical research on a recent US history event and write a 20 page thesis. My topic? The 1968 Tet Offensive during the Vietnam conflict. And keep in mind, this was pre-InterWebs and online archives. But I was able to collect a wide variety of secondary and primary sources to create what I thought was an absolutely outstanding piece of historical thinking.
Of course, my professor at the time thought otherwise. Among other things, she dinged me pretty good for not including local newspaper accounts from the period. She asked a valid point:
What was American reaction to the events taking place in Vietnam?
Part of the problem was that to find and read newspaper accounts of the period was difficult. A bigger part was my lack of vision in not even really thinking about newspapers as a useful source of information.
Talk about a teachable moment. I will forever more see the value of local newspapers for helping to tell the story. And after an incredibly sweet afternoon at the Newseum earlier this week, I am even more convinced about the power of a tool like Chronicling America. This is a perfect example of the kinds of stuff you and your kids can use as part of the Collect element in the C4 Framework.
You can search by date, by state, and keyword. You can zoom in and out of the different papers and flip through the pages in each issue. You also get specific citation information.
The cool thing? Joe from the equally sweet EDSITEment site sent over some handy Chronicling America related items that provide some specifics about what it can look like in your classrooms: