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Getting intimate with primary sources: A new seres of iBooks from the LOC

 The Library of Congress Launches New Interactive eBook Series for Students and Teachers, All Materials Free to AccessIf you love or teach with primary sources, and if you’ve got a few iPads around the classroom, you’re going to be pretty happy.

The Library of Congress announced and launched the first titles in its series of free Student Discovery Sets.

The new Library of Congress Student Discovery Sets bring together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind documents on a wide range of topics, from history to science to literature. Interactive tools let students zoom in, draw to highlight details, and conduct open-ended primary source analysis. Full teaching resources are available for each set.

These first six titles may be downloaded free as iBooks on iTunes.

Just released are . . .

extract from the U.S. ConstitutionThe Constitution:The drafts and debates that brought the Constitution and the Bill of Rights into being, including notes by the documents’ framers.



Migrant pea picker

The Dust Bowl: Songs, maps, and iconic photographs document the daily ordeals of rural migrant families during a disastrous decade.

Langston HughesThe Harlem Renaissance: Discover some of the innovative thinkers and creative works that contributed to the cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.



Immigrants looking out over waterImmigration: The immigrant experience in America from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in primary sources.


Betsy Ross sewing the U.S. flagSymbols of the United States: Watch six well-known symbols of the U.S. change over the centuries. Especially for early grades.



planet earth with the moon and starsUnderstanding the Cosmos: Astronomers’ depictions of the universe, from before Copernicus to after photography.



The books look beautiful on the iPad.  They are enhanced with audio and allow learners to get up close and personal with individual primary sources.  Students are asked to analyze and ask questions about the items they see.  They may enlarge, draw on images, and take notes on their observations, supported by helpful prompts.

Teachers Guides for these and the other web-based sets are available at the Primary Source Sets site.  While this content is available on the site, the iPad experience brings a lovely kind of intimacy to the analysis experience.

from The Harlem Renaissance

from The Dust Bowl





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. I would love these more if they were device agnostic. Teaching with the Library of Congress has put together some amazing resources for us, and I’d love to share these with teachers. Maybe when we get a few iPads!

  2. Joyce Valenza Joyce Valenza says

    I know, Mary! I am hoping that they go cross platform soon.

  3. As a former 11th grade English teacher, now middle school librarian, I always tried to stress the importance of primary source documents. Making them available like this is wonderfully engaging for our students, as well as helpful for our teachers. Thanks for the info! I will pass it on to my teachers!

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