The Best Free Resource You Aren’t Using

by Hope Morley

If you think about the Library of Congress at all, perhaps you imagine a giant library with stacks of books going up to the ceiling, or maybe you think it’s merely dusty old congressional records. While both of those things are true, their website is also a great resource for teachers. And best of all, it’s free!

Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-02457

Teahouse at Koishikawa | Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-02457

Spend a little time exploring the homepage. The Prints & Photographs division has millions of digital images that are easy to search and download. The Civil War photographs and Farm Security Administration collections are particularly worth exploring. Some of the collections may surprise you. Did you know the LOC has an excellent collection of Japanese art prints?

The Film division contains many early motion pictures, including from Thomas Edison’s studio, which make a great study of technology and inventions. Show students this 1894 video of boxing cats to prove that cat videos were popular long before YouTube!

Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-fsa-8b29516

Migrant Mother | Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-fsa-8b29516

Though some of the sites are a little old and not very pretty, LOC’s Digital Collections (formerly the American Memory series) is full of curated content ripe for the picking. Looking for documents from the Constitutional Convention? Historical sheet music? Videos of the Spanish-American War, including Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders? A history of the American conservation movement? A web archive of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City? You may find things you didn’t know would be fascinating, like a history of Dolly Parton and early country music.

Some content comes from other sources, such as universities and local historical societies, which extends the reach of the site. They have whole collections of African American history, women’s history, technology, and more. Don’t let the old-fashioned look of some of the pages scare you off!

Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppprs-00626

First Flight | Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppprs-00626

For teacher-focused materials, head over to their teacher page. This site contains lesson plans, presentations, and student activities. Lesson plans include recommended grade levels and many have Common Core correlations. You’ll also find tips for using primary sources in the classroom and some professional development lessons.

What are your favorite resources from LOC? Tell us in the comments!

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT. 

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