Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Just a quick post as I’m out the door for a digital storytelling workshop.  Watched John Adams last night and enjoyed it.  It opens with the Boston Massacre and I was reminded of a media literacy lesson that I did with middle schoolers.  We took a look at Paul Revere’s famous engraving of the “massacre.”  Rather than an historically accurate depiction, it is a propaganda piece, designed to further rile up the mobs against the British.  Here’s a good description of the inaccuracies of the picture.


Just finished reading The American West by Dee Brown, who is probably best known for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the classic history of Native Americans. The American West is a collection of short historical pieces roughly organized in chronological order. It reviews much of the Native American history but also covers railroads, cowboys, and the rise and fall of Western towns. I really enjoyed it, despite having a pretty solid knowledge of much that it covers. My husband and I have explored a good bit of the territory that Brown describes, mostly during our Lewis and Clark trip in 1998.

Part of what made The American West so good was the extensive use of photographs and maps. I think history is often a dull subject to students because it the materials tend to text-based, and unless you’ve got an engaging writer like Brown, the endless dates, names and locations can be overwhelming.  For me,  history lives in the stories that Brown tells and those photographs and maps helped flesh out the story for me.

This morning, I sat down to add the book the my LibraryThing catalog and then started poking around the Library of Congress website. What a treasure trove of visual representations! The site covers not just items in the LOC collection but also links to other sites, such as the University of Washington’s online exhibit about the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest. These repositories offer a wealth of materials for the teacher to use but also for digital storytelling projects as well.

I searched the Google maps directory and was surprised that I couldn’t find an overlay about Native Americans or even western history.  What a great project that would be for students who are studying history.  It helps make the link between geography and history.  For instance, the National Park Service has an interactive map for the Battle of Little Bighorn that can be used with Google maps satellite view to better understand the terrain and the battle itself.   I was never very good at deciphering battles from text descriptions so this offers some new understanding.

 I’ve been reading Native American history lately, and I have a draft of a blog post about the American West waiting for a little more work.  So, I eagerly clicked on the link in my gmail this morning that took me to this Discovery Channel article about new archaeological discoveries related to Native Americans.  It seems that, based on mitochondrial DNA, they can be traced to six founding mothers.  The article itself is worth a look, especially for educators, since at the bottom of the first page there is a nice video about the “cool” job of archaeology.

Here’s my question on this early Sunday morning: how did Google know?  Or, was it just a coincidence?  I’m used to the links at the top of the page being related to my email.  In fact, it’s even funny sometimes how they find just the right link to go with whatever I’m reading.  But, as far as I know, I haven’t either sent or received email related to Native Americans.  I have, however, done several Google searches so perhaps that’s where it’s coming from.  Or, maybe, it is just a coincidence.  And, while it worries me a little that Google seems to know a lot about me, I’m also sort of happy since I probably wouldn’t have found the article on my own.

I am reading Dee Brown’s The American West.  It’s a compilation of short, illustrated pieces the Brown wrote in tandem with photo editor Martin F. Schmitt in the 1950s.  Despite being pretty familiar with the history of the West, I am still finding some great new tidbits of information as well as new ways of considering that history.

Last night, I read two different passages about how Easterners were lured into coming out West.  I thought both were excellent illustrations of media literacy.  The first dealt with a sketch created by in 1869 by artist Henry Worrall called “Drouthy Kansas.”  You can read the whole story at the Kansas Historical Society’s website. Media literacy figures in because of the comment made by several Kansas farmers, wiped out by the drought and grasshoppers that came in the mid-1870s.  As they headed back East through Topeka, they stopped to talk to Worrall and suggested that it was the “diabolical seductiveness of that picture” that convinced them to come to the state in the first place.  This illustrates the power of the visual to persuade.

Another similar story comes from Kansas.  Western speculators often used the power of media to attract Easterners to new towns that were really nothing more than some marks on the ground.  Brown writes:

John J. Ingalls, Massachusetts lawyer, was attracted in 1856 by a colorful lithograph of Sumner, Kansas Territory.  When Ingalls arrived, he found little but platted kansas prairie.  In later years, as senator from Kansas he recalled the attractive advertisement as a chromatic triumph of lithographed mendacity.”

I turn again to the Kansas Historical Society’s website for Ingall’s story.