Historical photographs, paintings, sketches, and maps can inspire all kinds of history questions. That is why for more than a decade I’ve used and recommended images from Today’s Document from the National Archives to prompt classroom discussion as the introduction to U.S. and World History lessons. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other similar galleries on the web today. A list of some of my favorites is included below.
Not only are historic photographs, paintings, sketches, and maps useful as discussion starters in a classroom, they’re also useful in prompting fun research questions. An example I shared a few weeks ago is found in asking, what kind of car was Harry Lyon sitting in in this photograph? A modern picture can also be useful to inspire research questions. Case in point, I often use the following picture with the following prompt, “which former Vice President of the United States owned this house?”
Here are twelve good places to find historical imagery to spark inquiry.
- World Digital Library
- World History Commons
- Flickr: The Commons
- Library of Congress: Photos, Prints, and Drawings
- Library and Archives Canada: Photographs, Maps, Art, and Stamps
- Unsplash for Education
- The Getty Search Gateway
- The New York Public Library Digital Collections
- The British Museum Prints and Drawings
- The Public Domain Review
- Museum of New Zealand Collections