Tuesday is Books & Libraries Day at the River Houses. This week: helping students learn the value of primary sources in research.
The Library of Congress has some excellent teaching tips and educational resources available on its website — all of them suitable for homeschoolers — and this week they are featuring a Civil War memoir as an example of a primary research source. If you have students working at the high school level, this is an excellent topic to cover with them.
The featured memoir was written by Mary Ann Ball Bickerdyke, a Civil War nurse working with the Union Army:
- 📖 MANUSCRIPT CIVIL WAR MEMOIR of Union nurse Mary Ann Bickerdyke, from the Library of Congress (blogs.loc.gov)
You can read about the memoir’s context, and view the entire scanned document in high resolution, at that link.
The Library emphasizes the educational value of primary sources of this kind to all students who are learning about history — a good lesson for homeschoolers:
Primary sources such as these letters and diaries offer rich insights into the lives of real people. The fragmented, personal nature of these sources requires careful reading in context and comparison across multiple accounts to glean information and construct understanding. To deepen their understanding of the complex range of experiences and events, students might:
⬩ Explore other pages of Bickerdyke’s memoir and correspondence;
⬩ Examine Civil War nurse, and founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton’s accounts of her struggle with her own sense of propriety in caring for the wounded;
⬩ Investigate the story behind the song “Be My Mother Till I Die.” They might research to find evidence to determine whether the accompanying story was based on an actual incident. Whether or not the story is factual, they might discuss the appeal of spreading the imagery in popular culture of the time. (blogs.loc.gov)
Spend a few homeschool minutes this week examining these primary sources with your students and talking about the difference between primary sources, such as the Bickerdyke memoir, and secondary sources, which represent the summarized, narrated, interpreted views of later historians.
What educational discoveries have you made at your library lately?
❡ Books in the running brooks: The sidebar on the River Houses website (riverhouses.org) has links to several important online library collections that we like to explore. The WorldCat Library Finder (worldcat.org/libraries) will help you find all the libraries in your local area, and the WorldCat catalog itself (worldcat.org) will help you locate the nearest copy of almost any book in the world. 😊