• Katsushika, Hokusai, 1760-1849, artist, [between 1804 and 1818] 1 print : woodcut, color ; 23.2 x 17.2 cm.

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  • Katsushika, Hokusai, 1760-1849, artist, [between 1804 and 1818] 1 print : woodcut, color ; 23.2 x 17.2 cm.
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You are viewing 8 posts by the author Hanna Finchler

Power to the People: Protest and the American Experience

Author: Christa Reitz

This week, the nation experienced a variety of protests and counter-protests stemming from a call to action by the students who survived last month’s school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  As teachers, we have a great responsibility to encourage students to find their voice during difficult times. By modeling and structuring responsible discourse in our classrooms, we must help to develop a new generation of civically-minded citizens.

As I witnessed student demonstrators in support of and against the ideas behind the walk out, I was very impressed by the thought process behind each person’s action.  Potentially life-altering ramifications involving punishment, college admission, and more were at stake. Administrators had to put plans into place to safely accommodate students who chose to walk out as well as their peers who felt strongly opposed.  I began to think more deeply about the power of peaceful, nonviolent protest in the United States… after all, the very fabric of our nation was woven in dissent.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a journalist, environmentalist, and strong advocate for the women's suffrage movement.  She was fierce and fearless, so it is no wonder that students at a school named in her honor have channeled their voices on the international stage.  This teachable moment is unfolding before our eyes and resonates with our students more than most stories of the past decade, as young men and women their age are making headlines.  As you are able, consider taking time to engage your students in this conversation because they will likely have something to say. It may also be a valuable opportunity to work with administrators and parents to continue the dialogue.  Encourage students to support their argument with evidence on either side. Connections with previous protest movements may also be relevant to your course of study.

The Library of Congress offers an incredible wealth of Primary Sources stemming from protest movements throughout our nation’s history.  Here are a few examples from different time periods, including arts and music-related articles:

“Students Rise to Protest”


“Blues as Protest”


“Songs of Social Change”


“Germantown Friends' protest against slavery 1688”


“Why Women Should Protest,” from the Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, 1897-1911


“Flyer for the 1989 Silent March on Washington”


“At the Ballot Box”


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Think Like a Detective

Author: Jodi Sabra


Happy New Year.

I came back to school after a week in Florida, and I have that just-thrown-back-in-the-deep-end readjustment that most middle school teachers are feeling right now.  It’s like, Welcome back, and Wait, where did we leave off?  It’s a perfect time to introduce murder mysteries and How to think like a detective.

I began by introducing my students to W5H: Who, What , Where, When, Why, How?  We’re learning to think and read and write like detectives.  We’re figuring out a murder and unpacking the crime scene.  We’re determining which characters are reliable and which are suspect.

My kids just discovered that the trunk they’ve been sitting on during read-aloud time is full of costumes.  (Funny, they never asked!) And we’re reading Murder on the Orient Express.  The students have figured out how to rearrange the room to match the setting of the novel, and things need to be returned to normal for the next class.  Anyhow, there are several resources on the LOC site that we will incorporate into our classroom stage set.

Here are a few LOC items to enhance their sense of wonder and understanding about: the 1930’s and 40’s; the geography and cartography of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Morocco, Italy, France, England from that time; detective’s tools then and now; determining facts & detecting lies; the fashion and mindset of ladies and gentlemen who traveled internationally; train travel, and The Simplon Orient Express.

 Check out these amazing travel posters that evoke the romance of international travel:


 A glimpse at some NYC police and detectives in the early 1900’s...it might be interesting to compare how crimes are solved today versus in the early part of the 20th century:


A fascinating history of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping which is loosely referenced in Murder on the Orient ExpressFBI File on the Lindbergh Kidnapping

Images of Simplon Pass:


If I project these images on the White Board while they’re setting up the scene, then prompt them to look at the image through their ‘detective’s lenses’, it gives them another opportunity to practice "thinking like detectives." The LOC Graphic Organizer  is a perfect tool for encouraging students to observe closely, pose questions and uncover facts.

It’s hard to take things too seriously while my students are dressed in my mother’s housecoat and my great uncle’s hats, so interjecting images from the Library of Congress brings a bit of ‘real life’ into our discovery time.  If you’ve studied murder mysteries, leave a little message and share any links/books/resources you used for your unit.  Have a great 2018!

    • Early 1900s Detectives
    • Simpleton Pass
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Using Art to Understand Changing Neighborhoods

    • St. Paul 1883
    • 1960s Map
    • Google Maps
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Author: Cate Cooney


This is the time of year when we start planning our Summer week-long TPS courses at the University of the Arts. I get to dream up projects and field trips, think about potential speakers, and talk to artists who we might visit. It is the kind of creative, collaborative work I love.

My mind has been on maps, architecture, cities and change. We’re planning a course for this summer that should encompass those ideas and will touch on a wide variety of primary sources. While brainstorming projects, and searching Library of Congress resources for this new class, I was thinking about how I have used google maps to compare historic photographs of street scenes to a contemporary view in some of my TPS courses. I wondered how I might expand upon that idea for a hands-on art project. This is a first for me, since I am neither an artist or a classroom teacher, so what follows may be a little rough. I’d love to hear your take on it.

 Our cities have changed and been shaped by our transportation systems. The highway system has had a great impact on neighborhoods in many urban areas. Areas of Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Los Angeles and Miami have completely changed due to the interstate highway system coming though the city. When Interstate 94 in St. Paul, MN was constructed in the 1960s, it ran through the heart of the Rondo neighborhood, which was a primarily African American community, splitting it in half. I wondered if the effect of this division could be explored and better understood through art.


I'm interested in making a  project based on maps and photographs of what was once the Rondo neighborhood. First, I'll make a simple linocut, based on a current street and highway map, perhaps even using Google maps as a source.


Next, I'll examine the primary source material from the neighborhood’s heyday. I'll look for oral histories, newspaper articles, photographs, and maps. Using these materials, I could do drawings of homes, businesses, or street views that no longer exist in light pencil on watercolor paper, going over my pencil drawing with white wax crayon.


Over my crayon drawings, I could  make waterproof ink line drawings based on historic maps, showing the grid of streets that were demolished for the highway. I found the detail below by using Zoom into Maps https://www.loc.gov/collections/panoramic-maps/about-this-collection/ to find a panoramic map of St. Paul from 1883. 


On top of all of this, I'll print the linocut of the current highway map. As a final step, I'll use watercolors to lightly cover the entire surface of the paper, revealing the crayon drawing beneath.

My idea was inspired by Diane Burko’s work on climate change. http://www.dianeburko.com/. She uses the medium of the paint itself to communicate the feeling of glaciers breaking into icebergs, and melting into the sea. Another artist who uses her medium to convey a concept is Kathryn Clark, http://www.kathrynclark.com/foreclosure-quilts.html who cuts away rectangles of fabric, or even pulls out individual treads of her quilts to create maps of foreclosed homes.

I’m going to test my idea in the coming days, and will post the result, even though, as I have said, I am no artist. I’m hoping that the final piece will show the layers of the physical structures, as well as convey the sense of loss, or perhaps ghostly revelation of what lies beneath our current urban landscape. I can imagine doing this with a rural landscape as well, thinking about native prairie turned to farmland, and eventually suburban sprawl, for instance.

 Some of the resources I used for this post are linked below:

 “Collection of interviews, created by Hand in Hand Productions, capturing the lives and experiences of long time residents of St. Paul, Minnesota's Rondo community, an urban neighborhood situated near the city's downtown commercial district. A mixed neighborhood with respect to ethnicity and income, it has been home to a significant African American population since the early 1900s and was a particularly vibrant community in the 1930s. The neighborhood was essentially devastated by the construction of Interstate Highway 94 through its center in the 1960s. Many of its African American inhabitants, businesses, churches, fraternal orders, and social clubs were displaced into more segregated locales where they faced discrimination in housing and other areas.” https://www.loc.gov/folklife/civilrights/survey/view_collection.php?coll_id=966

A webpage about the Rondo Neighborhood: http://saintpaulhistorical.com/items/show/160


Primary sources:

A search of Chronicling America for “Rondo” results in lots of records from The Appeal. The Appeal was a Black newspaper, founded in 1885, based in St. Paul. http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/appeal-newspaper-was-popular-20th-century-black-america Take a look through the newspaper articles and advertisements to get a feel of the neighborhood.

From Chronicling America. The image shows houses in the Rondo Neighborhood in 1910.

 The Minnesota Historical Society has images from the neighborhood before the highway went through: http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/largerimage.php?irn=10068533&catirn=10667597&return=q=photograph%20and%20rondo

Rondo Street Police Station, Rondo and Western, St. Paul.

Children on Rondo St. Edward, Edith and Walter Fairbrother, Rondo Street, St. Paul.

Interior views, Credjafawn Co-op Store, 678 Rondo, St. Paul.


 The Booker T Café and Tavern.

A man and a woman grilling in the Rondo Neighborhood.

A woman and child walking down a street in the neighborhood: Nettie Gardner and Rose Marie Gardner.

A 1946 map of the proposed route for I94.

 A panoramic map of St Paul from 1883. I used this map for the detail above.

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Do People Who Live in Concrete Houses Throw Stones?

Author: Cate Cooney

The University of the Arts offered another week-long Local Collections course last summer. We explored STEM to STEAM: Connecting the Arts to STEM and Local Collections. One of the several local collections we visited was Fonthill Castle. Fonthill is an incredible 44-room house built by Henry Mercer to house his extensive collection of tiles and prints. 

Fonthill is fascinating not only as an aethetic experience, and an expression of one man's vision, but as a technological wonder. The house is made from poured-in-place concrete. You may know that concrete has been used as a building material since the Classical era. Romans used it extensively to create structures that were strong and complex. Technological changes, incuding the invention of Portland Cement in 1824, allowed cement to be developed into a building material that was less labor-intensive than the andient Roman methods.

Thomas Edison found that his Edison Ore-Milling company produced large quantities of waste sand. He had been selling this sand to concrete companies, but in 1899 started his own concrete business. He started experimenting with domestic applications for poured concrete, including building a garage and gardener's cottage on the grounds of his mansion in 1908. He had hoped that concrete homes would take off (and that he could supply the concrete!) but sadly, it never really did.

Mercer started building his home the same year Edison had his structures built. However, Mercer did not complete his work until 1912. His home is filled with built-in concrete furniture, and much of his collection of ceramics was enbedded in the concrete. 

We chose Fonthill for our STEM to STEAM class as an example of techonogy and artistic vision coming together. I am looking forward to learning more during our visit to this extraordinary site. 

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New York Times Magazine All Comics Issue

Author: Cate Cooney

I was thrilled to find the all-cartoon issue of the New York Times Magazine in my Sunday paper yesterday. It immediately made me think about the TPS Program, and the UArts course on Comics and Graphic Novels as primary sources. While our course focuses on using comics as primary sources, the NYT Magazine had cartoonists mine the Metro section of the paper, and interpret articles they found as cartoons. 

Can you imagine doing this project with a group of students? You could explore current events, or examine history through reading newspaper accounts, and then create your own graphic versions. What do you think student would gain through such an exercise? What skills would they need to employ to create a two page cartoon of a newspaper article? 


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Pride: Visibility & Validation

Author: Jordan Rockford

In my summer course we look at how photographs help inform identity, both in defining individuals and groups, as well as perpetuating or shattering stereotypes of marginalized communities. Having just celebrated Pride in Philadelphia, where a new Pride flag was recently unveiled that includes black and brown stripes – representing people of color, who have often been sidelined within the already marginalized queer community, to inspire greater inclusivity – I’ve been thinking about the symbols and images that people create and leave behind, that tell the story of their struggles for visibility and validation.

I decided to see what sort of LGBTQ resources the Library of Congress offers and was pleased to discover a well-curated list of resources and links to the collection:


Among the many excellent resources listed are two that stand out to me today, both because they are photographic and because they touch on my ruminations above.

The first is a set of images from the Carol Highsmith Archive, a collection of photographs from the widely-published American photographer who has provided her images copyright-free to the American public via ongoing donation to the Library of Congress. In 2012 she shot a series of images documenting the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco – these images capture the vibrancy and joy, not to mention the hours of costuming, that are the trademark of Pride parades around the world.

The second resource that stood out to me is one I’ve known and used for years, but like any good archive it always has surprises in store. Carl Van Vechten was a photographer, active in the early 20th century, who documented luminaries in arts and literature, with a particular focus on the Harlem Renaissance. Among the many portraits Van Vechten made there are a variety of queer writers and artists represented, including Gertrude Stein, Bessie Smith, Countee Cullen and Truman Capote.

There’s also a wonderful snapshot, taken by Saul Mauriber, of Van Vechten himself with Christopher Isherwood, whose many contributions to the gay literary canon – and resulting theatrical and cinematic adaptations, such as Cabaret and A Single Man – make him an icon of gay lit.


    • Pride
    • Pride
    • Stein
    • Smith
    • Van Vechten
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Hidden Comics Resources

Author: Ian Sampson

I teach a class for TPS on integrating comics into the K-12 classroom, and I've written here before about the Yellow Kid. The Library of Congress proper is an incredible repository of early comics, but the online resources are somewhat limited. This is due, it appears, to various copyright restrictions on the material. 

But if you are looking for examples of early comics (1895-1920, say) I have found a new resource in the LOC: the original newspapers. The library has recently been uploading more high resolution scans of turn-of-the-century papers, inadvertently skirting those restrictions and providing fascinating context in the process.

The comics pages were developed to boost sales, so they were often featured at the front of the paper. This makes it easy to see which papers have a comics supplement - it's the first page, and it's in color. At the time, the term comics simply denoted humorous content, so not all records matching this description contain what we now think of as comics, but if you're willing to do a little digging, there are gems. I've attached page 4 of the American Humorist from Nov 7, 1897, the Colored Comic Weekly of the New York Journal and Advertiser, which features a half-page Yellow Kid cartoon.

The cartoon features the Kid (comics' first big star - see my other posts!) celebrating (mocking?) the end of the 1897 presidential election with the other residents of his New York City tenement. It's a late effort, and a good one. The important comics historian RC Harvey wrote an updated roundup of the Yellow Kid's career in the Comics Journal last year highlighting the importance of the previously unheard-of Hearst editor Morrill Goddard. It's an excellent read and can be found here: http://www.tcj.com/outcault-goddard-the-comics-and-the-yellow-kid/

But the point of my posting is this - I found it completely by accident. Note that the record does not contain any tags or notes indicating that this is a perfect scan of a primary source featuring the most important comic character of the 19th century. I did search "comics" in loc.gov, but the search tool only recognizes standard text, not drawings or the banner advertising the "Comic Weekly". The word "comics" happens to appear elsewhere in the paper (the classifieds, ha). 

Note that I'm not trying to call anyone out here. These records were clearly scanned as newspapers - that they may contain important comics or anything else of interest was clearly incidental at the time. 

The takeaway here is that there are new, fascinating gems of early comics at loc.gov as full, contextual, primary sources! You just have to know where to look. 

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America's National Anthem

Author: Stormy Vogel

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Teaching with Music-Related Primary Sources Face-to Face Workshop in November 2017 at the Library of Congress. Even though I am not a music teacher (I am a high school librarian) I thoroughly appreciated and found great value in the workshop.  During the workshop we were exposed to music-related resources in order to engage students, build critical thinking, and construct knowledge, the pillars of the TPS (Teaching with Primary Sources) program. We had an amazing visit to the Music Division  Reading Room where James Wintle showed us various resources and were regaled with their little known back stories.

One artifact that was shared with us was a copy of the poem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key.  Since the recent NFL controversy of players kneeling while the National Anthem is played, I was curious about the origins of the poem/song.  I discovered the poem/song is not without its surprises. Even though we sing one stanza at the beginning of ballgames and other events, the song actually has four stanzas.  The lyrics also include question marks at the end of some lines - …”were so gallantly streaming?”  I’m not sure how you sing a question, but I’m sure we have music experts that could tell me how it is done! The melody is attributed to “To Anacreon in Heaven” which you can read more about from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History post. Some say the national anthem originated from a drinking song, but there are others who refute that claim.

There are many informative and interesting blogs on the Library of Congress website that shine the light on Francis Scott Key and “The Star-Spangled Banner”. One blog, Bringing the “Banner” to Light by Erin Allen discusses the (uncertain) history, lyrics, and melody of the anthem.   Another  blog  by Jeff Bridges, O Say Can You See shares with us prints held by the library of the bombardment of Fort McHenry. And yet another blog from The National Audio-Visual Conservation Center entitled The Birth of the Star Spangled Banner (Edison, 1914) by Mike Mashonincludes a copy of the magazine Edison Kinetogram which features “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the blog also includes the film, The Birth of the Star Spangled Banner. What a treat!

Currently, the original handwritten poem resides at the Maryland Historical Society.

 The song became America’s anthem in 1931, long after it was written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. There is an autographed manuscript at the Library of Congress which is in beautiful digital format and there are examples of the Star Spangled Banner in Primary Source Sets – Symbols of the United States.

Use all of these resources to discover the history behind our nation’s song.

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