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In honor of Women’s History Month, the Plains to Peaks Collective (PPC), an online portal of digitized historic collections from Colorado and Wyoming, recently launched their very first primary source education set – Notable Colorado Women. This set currently includes five different student activities with related resources created to encourage students to explore the lives and achievements of just a few influential Colorado women and the times in which they lived. This set includes historic collection items from PPC partners and was created and made available through the freely available and easy-to-use platform Museums for Digital Learning (MDL).
What is a primary source set? Primary source sets are simply sets of primary sources curated around specific topics. Primary sources are firsthand accounts of history and are the type of historic items typically found in a museum or archive. Examples of primary sources include archives and manuscript material; photographs; video recordings; films; letters and diaries; speeches; scrapbooks; newspapers and magazine clippings published at the time; oral histories; records of organizations; autobiographies and memoirs; printed ephemera and artifacts including clothing, costumes, and furniture.
Primary source sets are used by teachers in the classroom and independently by students. Many students, from all age groups, use kits as a starting point in the study or exploration of a given topic. Sets encourage a student’s analysis of a topic by introducing it with contextual information, they often suggest further readings and come preloaded with a curated set of primary sources from which students can build upon. Students that engage in primary source work, either independently or in the classroom, build critical thinking and analysis skills and often develop a deeper personal understanding of a topic.
There are a number of existing primary source set resources out there – the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and the Library of Congress Primary Source Sets to name a few. These projects include primary source sets created by educators utilizing historic collections found at the Library of Congress or contributed to the DPLA’s online library.
MDL is the most recent endeavor created to promote the use of primary sources by educators and students. But what sets MDL apart from the other platforms is that it also encourages and makes easy the creation of primary source sets. MDL is a unique platform that provides K-12 educators with access to authentic historic content-based resources for use in and outside the classroom. MDL was developed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Newfields (Indianapolis Museum of Art), the Field Museum, and History Colorado. The platform was also designed to enable collecting institutions to create their own educational resources and share their digitized content with K-12 educators in the form of primary source sets called “Resource Kits.” The site launched in summer 2021.
Don’t let the name fool you, this site wasn’t just built for use by museums with education professionals on staff. The platform’s core goals include offering a “one-stop shop” platform for K-12 educators AND providing templates that make it easy for cultural heritage institutions of all sizes, disciplines, and geographic locations to participate. Easy? Sounds too good to be true, right? I thought so too until I tried it. Myself and my colleague who helped create the Notable Colorado Women resource kit are definitely not educators and like many our “Special Project” time is limited. The MDL site is free to use, it is easy to sign up and once registered there are easy-to-follow planning and creation guides available. The preloaded activity templates and drop down menus make it easy for non-educators to create kits that align with education standards.
We at the PPC are excited to build upon this initial kit as well as create new kits. Our goal is to share Colorado and Wyoming history more broadly and help bring cultural heritage into the nation’s classrooms. The MDL is helping to make that possible. Be sure to check the PPC and the MDL site for new Resources Kits! While you are at it don’t forget to search the PPC. New items are added often. There are currently 67 institutions sharing 742,515 pieces of Colorado and Wyoming history in one easy to search site.
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