Fun With Primary Sources!

Frankly, the lesson today was a bit disjointed because of Senior Scheduling visit by the counselors.  Some of that couldn’t be helped at all, and I think that you got tons of excellent material to go through, and consider while you decide your future path.  SOME of it could be helped, and whatever didn’t work, was my fault.  I think we got some excellent work in during the short amount of time we had together though.

 I know one thing for sure though… I need to do more work to successfully introduce primary source materials into our class.  Primary source materials are any original item or record that has survived from the past and was part of a direct personal experience of a time or event, or any piece of information that was created at the time being studied, by the person being studied about.

For the purpose of our class we’re going to use a fairly small variety of primary sources.  These should include:

Speeches

Photographs

Government Documents

Video footage

Memos

Letters

Interviews (oral histories)

Historians use all of these and more to be able to interpret historical events.  Additional sources they may use are cloth, pottery, items dug from Archeological sites…  The things we will use for this class are less than 60 years old, so it’s unlikely that we’re going to need a shovel to find what we need.  BTW, all the video clips I’ve used in this blog can be considered primary sources.

 Anything else we use will be secondary sources (textbooks, documentary videos, hearsay accounts of events etc.)

A secondary source documents or analyzes another’s experience. They can be created at the time, or long after the efent.  Secondary sources may provide a perspective, ro simply describe primary sources.

There’s absolutely no reason not to use a secondary source.  We, as historians, just need to recognize when we’re using primary sources, and when we’re using secondary ones.  Primary sources can lie, Secondary sources could be misguided, or inaccurate.  We need to be careful, and work to establish what’s correct, and what’s not.  Sometimes we’ll agree on what that means, and sometimes not.

While we’re together in class I’ll work very hard to make sure I’m upfront whether I think an item we’re using is a primary or secondary source.  Let me know if you have any questions.

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