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Lesson 2 Discussion

Here are the documents I promised you.  All are from the National Archives, of course. :-)  Just click on the link and it will take you to the document.  You only need to analyze two of them, but I'd like for you to look at them all.

Please post your analysis ideas here on the discussion board (methods you already use or ideas you have for analysis), but send the actual analysis pages to me at carol.buswell@nara.gov .  Thanks!


1.  Plan for the U.S. Treasury Building on Saint Paul Island, Alaska, ca. 1880 (architectural drawing)


2.  St. Paul Island, Alaska. Native barabara and Aleut boy. (Alaska Investigations-1914), 1914 (photograph)


3.  Official Log, St. Paul Island, Alaska, 06/14/1942 - 08/02/1942  (text document)


4.  Aleut Womens Petition, 10/10/1942  (text document)


5.  Make America First in the Air, exact date unknown (ca. 1947-1984) (moving picture)  You can also see this at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnVKKUyWsMs 


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  • I have used something similar to the NARA analysis sheet for posters (though less formal) in my classroom when looking at WWII propaganda posters.  The ideas are the same though - identify symbols, the tone or mood, whose point of view is this written from, who is the target audience, and what is the message?  This also works really well in my econ class when we look at political cartoons which gets us talking about current events and linking economic ideas to what is happening in our world. 

    I really like the idea of forcing my students to slow down and record them observations, especially when looking at a photograph.  Even as a "learned adult" I find myself wanting to take in the whole picture, form a snap judgment, and move on.  If I take more time I find that I have often overlooked so much!

  • I am starting using the Plan for the Treasury Building...If i was to show this to my students, I would want to deconstruct the drawing for what the picture actually denotes, but also what is the context.  For instance, we see that the picture is an expression of the presence of the United States Government but also making the students see the context of the drawing.  For instance, here is a log building...building on prior knowledge of the geography we know that wood is a scarce resource on St. Paul island...so what implications does that have for the building's purpose or meaning.  Also, it is next to a church...does that give it more symbolic meaning.   

    So for me analysis is beyond just identification of what is on the document, it has a context or greater meaning to be explored.  I think adding this component is especially helpful to teach students to actively and carefully examine documents beyond simply the first reaction.

  • These are all really cool ideas!  Any clue where the ocr capability is in GoogleDocs?

  • I'm using the resources from NARA to analyze the documents for our Week 2 assignment, but I have used another resource that is helpful. I just discovered it this year on the NHD resources. It is the Stanford History Education Group. I used the  lessons on "Sourcing" images to assess their value as primary documents with my class.

  • I'm afraid I spent the vast majority of the day working on an analysis assignment based on Carol's 4th exercise: "Have students choose the 'most important words' from a single text document and then make up a poem or song using as many of those words as possible..."

    I like this idea, but it made me think of the website Wordle, and its' ability to use text samples to create "visual poetry".  The problem is that Wordle only works on digital text, not images of text, but then I remembered that Google docs now has optical character reading (OCR) capabilities.  And sure enough, after a little poking around I was able to convert the Aleuts Petition to digital text and create this...


    After I figured out that it could be done, I spent the rest of my time writing up a draft set of instructions and creating an exemplar.  You can access both here.  Please feel free to take, use, and modify at will.  If you come up with any improvements or interesting variations, please share them back!

    Wordle - Beautiful Word Clouds
  • As a high school counselor I don't really have any analysis tools that I use with students regularly, but I now have some more strategies to use with students as I am helping them with their class assignments. I found this exercise to be very interesting, as I was amazed at how much more I saw in the picture when I went through the photo analysis exercise! It is also interesting how quickly I came to my own conclusions about the picture, before I even really knew what I was looking at.  What a great activity for students.

  • (entirely stolen from the College Board)  I use the SOAPSTone and gist method of analysis of primary sources.  I have students identify the speaker, occasion, audience, purpose, setting and tone of the document.  In addition, I have them write a few sentences identifying the gist, or general message, of the document.  Obviously, terms like "speaker" need to be loosely interpreted, as with a picture, in which the artist "speaks" to his or her audience with something other than words.  

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