A look at interesting primary source documents and images from the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ collections including eyewitness accounts of the Civil War around Washington, DC, by Mary Henry, who lived in the Smithsonian Castle, and Solomon G. Brown, the first African American employee at the Smithsonian; Snowflake photographs by “Snowflake” Bentley in the late 19th century; and James Renwick’s architectural designs for the Smithsonian Castle. Includes sample primary source exercises for use in K-12 classrooms.
Education Materials for K - 12 Teachers
The Smithsonian Institution Archives has online versions of its primary sources available to teachers, including diaries, letters, and photographs. The lesson plans and resources below provide ideas about how to use primary sources in the K–12 classroom. There are no restrictions on the use of these materials in the classroom.
Online Teaching Resources
Browse through historic images of the Smithsonian’s museums and research centers, and learn about its history through pictures.
Follow the development of the Smithsonian from James Smithson's curious will, to debates over the Institution's founding, the building of the US National Museum, and the Institution's 150th anniversary in 1996.
Learn about Smithsonian research expeditions around the globe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Learn about the Smithsonian’s first Secretary, Joseph Henry, and his role in creating the first weather observation program in the United States in the 1840s.
Visit the Smithsonian in 1886, view the giant squid in the Castle, see dinosaurs and George Washington's uniform on display in the new museum building, now the Arts and Industries Building, and get to know the staff in the late 19th century.
Take a look at the Smithsonian Institution in the year 1900. Visit its museums, zoo, and research labs, and wander through its exhibits at world’s fairs.
Practice the skills needed to be critical consumers of images with click! photography changes everything, which explores photography's impact on our history, culture, and lives. A project of the former Smithsonian Photography Initiative, texts and content for click were commissioned and compiled between 2007–2010.