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The Object Of History

Found in: arts; social studies; 9-12

The Object Of History provides access to the collections in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and to the expertise of its curators. High School students learn about U.S. History and improve their understanding of material culture. Students can then create their own virtual exhibits. The section, Teacher Materials and Resources, has lessons with standards and resources. It also has video tutorials for teachers and students. A video tutorial demonstrates how to use the website.

  • Guide to Doing History with Objects opens with the essay “Looking at Artifacts, Thinking about History” and supplies additional resources on photography, advertisements, and material culture.
  • Objects The site features six objects: the Jefferson writing desk, a gold nugget, the Lincoln-Keckley dress, the voting machine, the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth lunch counter, and a short-handled hoe given to the museum by Cesar Chavez's family. Each object includes a short video overview and 360 degree image that can be manipulated by dragging and by zooming in and out. In some cases, hotspots let students interact with the objects. The Jefferson Desk and its compartments’, for example, can be opened and closed. Other tabs let students explore and tour aspects of objects. Information can be print or video or both. Each object includes an annotated bibliography of web resources.
  • Forum is an audio (mp3) archive of curators and historians answering questions about the featured objects and their historical contexts are archived here. Audios are approximately 45 minutes long.
  • Activity Students title and write thesis statements, select items from the collection, add commentary, and then submit their virtual exhibits. The system will create a unique URL for each.


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