EYEWITNESS TO HISTORY — History through the lives of those who lived it
Many times when students hear of and think about history, their minds have tended to either go blank or straight to the horrible thought of having to memorize the names of Presidents, remembering all kinds of dates, or reciting boring facts from rote memorization. We need to change that! As a former history teacher, I was more inclined to allow the past to tell me a tale — in fact I used to use the silly play that history is just that.. a story! Who better to tell that story than those who actually lived though the events, or in some cases contributed to them?!
This is where today’s site, EyeWitness to History comes in. Covering the Ancient World through World War II, students can find first hand accounts of important events, insights on how lives were lived, as as we enter the 20th Century, actual sound clips and video of history in action. Each month there is a new spotlight on specific events and highlights of what happened in that month throughout history, and each week, a new historical photo is chosen as their “Photo of the Week”.
EyeWitness is easy to navigate for both teachers and students with the time periods of interest clearly delineated across a top menu bar, and subsections of the collection also broken down. These subsections include:
- The Index of eyewitness accounts — organized chronologically, these are text based recollections of events that are easily readable online or printable for the class.
- SnapShots — Currently covering early 20th century immigration through the Great Depression, these are the photographs that provide the at-that-instant in time picture of life.
- Voices of the 20th Century — sound recordings from 1899-1945 that give students a small glimpse of history through the words of those who influenced it.
- History in Motion — a small collection of video clips from 1903-1945 so students can view history as it happened.
While this is by no means a comprehensive collection, it can serve as a quick gateway for students to access some of this media and these accounts, without the intimidation that a larger collection or database (such as the Library of Congress) might have.
Use this with your students as a resource for their research, or keep it in your back pocket as a place to pull a quick video or audio clip to enhance your lesson, or to imbed in a presentation. Even non-History/Social Studies teachers would be able to use this site as a place to find a quick writing prompt to promote cross-curricular study.