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Library of Congress: a "theme song"?

My students and I created a "theme song" for the Library of Congress.

Sweet Primary Sources from Joyce Valenza on Vimeo.

Here’s the back story:
I was working on an application for the Library’s TPS Mentor program. The kids offered to help me with my required three-minute video.  Ian volunteered to produce.  The chorus and their teacher, Monica Femovich, volunteer their harmonies.  Dan Meder, our media production teacher volunteered our studio and green screen.  The rest should have been quiet history.

But . . .

After including the required brief description of my qualifications, the description of some of our lessons, and a chat about my plans for how I would participate in the program, we couldn’t squeeze in the song we produced for the application video into the application video.  So, it runs in the background.

Then we decided to produce it much more elaborately as a stand-alone and present it to the Library as a gift.  And, BTW, this is the lesson on Depression photographs and oral history that partly inspired our creativity.

So here’s our song.  If you would like to promote the use of primary sources in your own programs, perhaps it will come in handy.

Lyrics inspired by Sweet Rosie O’Grady, by Maude Nugent (1896)

Sweet Primary Sources (adapted by Joyce Valenza)

Sweet primary sources
Witness of a time

Help me with my courses,

When I am online

Films, letters, and speeches

Diaries, photos. and song

Teach me with primary sources

And make my analysis strong

What children were doing
Women, how did they behave?
In times long forgotten
How did the men shave?
Sweet primary sources
Allow us to know

And help us discover

As our historic tools grow.

Historical inq’ry
Forces us to think
What others were pon’dring
When their pens touched ink
Film, photos, and pictures
Transport us to when
People were living before us

So we might discover what then

Library of Congress
Treasures and collects
On its great web pages
It works to connect
Historical treasures
With students all over the globe

It gathers primary sources

So we can historically probe!

Images used in the video (viewable in the full-screen version of the video):




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Adams, Ansel. “Children at Sunday School Class, Manzanar Relocation Center.” 1943. Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010 <>.

Lincoln, Abraham. “Gettysburg Address.” Nov. 1863. Abraham Lincoln Papers. Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010. <>.

Nugent, Maude. “Sweet Rosie O’Grady. 1896. Historic American Sheet Music. Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010. <>.

“Breaker Boys.” c 1900. Detroit Publishing Company Photographic Collection. Library of Congress.  Web. 22 Mar. 2010. < >.

Harris & Ewing. “Pennsylvania on the Picket Line.” 1917. American Women. Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010. <>

Chicago Daily News. “Recruit Lathering his Face with a Shaving Brush. “ Sept. 1915. Library of Congress. Web.22 Mar. 2010. < >.

Chicago Daily News. “Edmund Burke School, Portable School Building Classroom.” 1910.  Photographs from the Chicago Daily News.  Library of Congress. 22 Mar. 2010.  <>.

Bell, Alexander. “Sketch of the Telephone. 1876. Words and Deeds in American History. Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.  <>.

Hughes, Langston. “Draft of ‘Ballad of Booker T.’” 1 Jun. 1941. Words and Deeds in American History. Library of Congress.  Web. 24 Mar. 2010. <>.

Thomas Edison. “ A Dull Razor.” 1920. Early Motion Pictures: 1897-1920. Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.  <>.

Wright, Wilbur or Orville. “Side View of Glider.”  1901. Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright.  Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010. <>.

Lange, Dorothea. “Migrant Agricultural Worker’s Family.”   Feb./Mar. 1936. FSA/OWI Collection. Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010. <>

UPI. “Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-in.” 1960.  African American Odyssey. Library of Congress.  Web. 22 Mar. 2010 <>.

Highsmith, Carol M. “Exterior View. Illumunicated West Façade View at Night. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building.” 2007.  Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.  <>

O’Sullivan, Timothy H. “Appomattox Court House.”  Apr. 1865. Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865. Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010. <>.

Palmer, Alfred T. (based on photo.) “The More Women at Work, the Sooner We Win!” 1943.  American Women. Library of Congress. Web. 22 Mar. 2010. <>.

“Chinese Students.” 1911. The Chinese in California: 1850-1925. Library of Congress. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. <>.

“Betsy Ross House, Philadelphia.”  1900.  Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company: 1880-1920.Library of Congress.  Web. 24 Mar. 2010. <>.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. McLibWiz says:

    Joyce, you are my hero – again. I am a shameless sycophant. This was so fun to watch and so empowering for those student participants. For the librarians in California battling to keep our school libraries open, you are the reminder of what we want to be.

  2. Joyce! Would you be willing to publish the lyrics? I’d love to use this in my school, but I think our students would get more from it if they could also read the lyrics! Thank you for sharing! It’s wonderful!

  3. joycevalenza says:

    Here you go, Kacada. I just added the lyrics to the post!

  4. Wish I’d had this last week when I was teaching all the 9th graders about primary sources–I’ll use it next year. Thanks!

  5. Thanks! The lyrics are great! We will use it!

  6. Joyce,
    You and your creativity crew have produced another winner. Thank you for sharing this video. Your time management skills still boggle my mind.

  7. Thanks for sharing! This was great.

  8. Mary J. Johnson says:

    Please tell your students they did a great job. I was thoroughly entertained by their clever, creative work. Thanks for sharing, Joyce.

  9. Sue Wise says:

    Thank you, Joyce, for this unique and inspiring studnet project, touting the benefits and motivations behind using primary sources in education. I am certain the Library is grateful for this generous gift. Keep creating!!!

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