In the late 1970s, the National Archives pioneered a new initiative to make Federal records accessible to classrooms and to encourage teachers to use archival sources as learning tools. Teaching with Documents, which began as a small publication project to provide reproductions of interesting and significant documents to secondary school history teachers, has evolved into a complex publication and professional development program for teachers and students at all educational levels and across the curriculum.
This teaching materials initiative and dozens of parallel initiatives across the departments of the National Archives and Records Administration constituted the inspiration for a special exhibit entitled "Teaching With Documents: Education Programs at the National Archives," that was held in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, from March 18, to May 1, 2005. The exhibit provided a window on NARA's education opportunities for the thousands of teachers and students who visit us on traditional spring field trips and a harbinger of the new Learning Center, scheduled to begin operations in the fall of 2006.
The exhibit featured original documents that have been used as teaching tools in various publications, including Social Education, Cobblestone, The Digital Classroom, the National History Day Teachers' Guide, Our Documents, The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809, and NARA/ABC-CLIO curriculum packages. The exhibit also featured a small "theater" space in which a running loop of short film segments about the Presidential Libraries and their education programs played.
We have heard, from some of the many educators who came to the exhibit, that they were impressed, surprised, enlightened, fascinated, inspired, intrigued, engaged, involved, motivated, and/or encouraged to teach with documents!