Finding online primary sources is never easy. While there are many online archives and tons of primary sources, we don’t always know where those archives live. Even if you can find a helpful archive online somewhere, it can be difficult tracking down exactly what you’re looking for. (This page might help a little.)
And I’m not sure today’s find is gonna help. But it is a very cool place to find primary sources that are incredibly interesting. Created and maintained by Salon, the site is called The Vault. You gotta love the site’s tagline:
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
So definitely continue to use to sites such as the Library of Congress, National Archives, and World History Documents but be sure to fav The Vault as well. Because you are going to run across stuff that is perfect for hooking your kids into a specific topic and for building content knowledge.
Some recent examples?
Three marriage certificates for formerly enslaved people, out of the many in the records of the National Archives. In their tallies of children borne and notes about separations through sale and military service, such certificates tell small histories of families’ lives under slavery.
Two were issued under the auspices of the Freedman’s Bureau (the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman, and Abandoned Lands), the federal agency that assisted emancipated slaves in a broad range of post-war needs, including legal matters like settling emancipees on land, securing back pay for soldiers, and solemnizing informal marriages.
A map represents the knowledge that the Research and Analysis Branch of the United States Office of Strategic Services had about German concentration camps in the early summer of 1944. Red circles denote locations of camps, and the prisoner capacity of the camp (“where known”) follows each camp’s name in parentheses.
Over three months of the summer and fall of 1787, 55 delegates from the 13 states hashed out the structure of a new Constitution, voting on matters both grand and seemingly minute.
The Vault provides several original pages that represent the votes including a page outlining the votes made on Wednesday, August 8 through Friday, August 10, when the convention discussed qualifications for voting and office-holding. Historian Gordon Lloyd compiled a list of resolutions made during the convention on the website Teaching American History. Search “August 8” on this page to reach his transcribed list, which is also annotated to give context to each resolution within the larger discussion.
Looking at these voting records, you can see how tedious many of the arguments must have been. (On June 28, Lloyd writes, the not-overly-religious Benjamin Franklin, noting “the small progress we have made after 4 or 5 weeks,” called for “prayers imploring the assistance of heaven.”)
And while The Vault will never be the sort of go-to archive you might use every week, it does deliver exactly what it’s tagline claims, interesting oddities that can be used to suck kids into looking at history in a more positive way. Plus . . . it’s a fun page just for you where you can geek out in all of your history nerdiness.