6. How do teachers
find historical records for classroom use?
Follow these eight steps as a
way to uncover suitable historical records for your instructional purposes.
1. Decide where in the
curriculum historical records can be used:
identify places where local, regional, national, or international examples complement existing lessons.
create a list of research subjects.
2. Identify repositories.
For assistance, consider any of the following within New York State or the United
States, or abroad:
reference staff of a local library. Check the
Historic Documents Inventory (HDI
Guides), which are organized by county. HDI
Guides may be accessed via interlibrary loan or online at the New York
State Archivesí Web site (note: you can also search on
Excelsior, the New York State
county or local historical societies
3. Contact repositories:
Contact the repositories that may have the needed records.
Identify the major themes emphasized in the classroom for repository staff.
When is the repository open to the public? Are there finding aids, catalogs,
or indexes to the records? Is it possible to obtain copies of finding aids in
advance of the visit? Are copying facilities available? If so, what fees are
Work with reference staff to identify records that might be useful:
- Make it clear to
reference staff that a specific item is not necessary, but records representing
certain themes or subjects are most useful.
Review finding aids.
Locating historical records is quite different from finding a book in a library:
Records are generally kept in a locked storage area and are not available for
researchers to retrieve or browse through on their own.
Historical records are kept together in the way they were created by a person
or organization; they are not generally treated as individual items.
It is helpful to look over
the finding aid to determine if there
are specific parts of the records that would be useful, or if the whole group
of records needs to be reviewed.
Handle historical records carefully:
Historical records are one-of-a-kind items which require special conditions
for research and handling.
repositories inform researchers of special rules for using their resources.
Identify teachable and useable records:
the record readable? Will a transcription be necessary?
the contents of the record appropriate for the classroom?
the length of the record appropriate? How much of the record is useable?
is the level of difficulty of the record? Is it appropriate for the classroom?
materials or activities will motivate students to use this record?
does the record relate to content and skills objectives of the curriculum?
Is the historical record
interesting and compelling?
Questions to ask staff about photocopying:
there a photocopying request form?
are the copying fees?
there a microfilm reader/printer available for use?
repository allow photographing of documents? Is there a photo stand available
for use by researchers?
scanners and other technological equipment permitted or is this service
provided for you?
NOTE: Once the copy of the document is in hand, make a complete
citation of the location of the original on the back of the copy.
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