Congress Creates the Bill of Rights App: Android and PDF Release

The Center for Legislative Archives is pleased to announced that our mobile app for tablets, Congress Creates the Bill of Rights, is now available for Android devices and as a PDF. The app situates the user in the proposals, debates, and revisions that shaped the Bill of Rights. Its menu-based organization presents a historic overview, a detailed study of the evolving language of each proposed amendment as it was shaped in the House and Senate, a close-up look at essential documents, and opportunities for participation and reflection designed for individual or collaborative exploration.

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights App

We also have online resources available for teachers and students to facilitate learning with the app.

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Summer Programs in DC: Cursive, Immigration, July 4th, Genealogy, Magna Carta and a Sleepover!

If you’ll be near Washington, DC, join us for our upcoming programs and professional development opportunities.

Magna Carta Family Day
Saturday, June 6, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

Magna Carta

Read the translation from Latin.

Celebrate 800 years of Magna Carta!  Meet Eileen Cameron and Doris Ettlinger, the author and illustrator of Rupert’s Parchment: Story of Magna Carta, a new book perfect for ages 6-11.  Participants will engage in hands-on activities as they discover more about this document that helped shaped how we think about rights.

Magna Carta is widely viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy. With it, the King of England placed himself and England’s future sovereigns and magistrates within the rule of law. The copy housed at the National Archives was created in 1297 and placed on loan to the National Archives as a gift to the American people by David M. Rubenstein.

Saving Cursive: New tools in the fight for Handwriting
Thursday, June 25, 1–3 p.m.

George Washington’s nomination of Alexander Hamilton and others

George Washington’s nomination of Alexander Hamilton and others, September 11, 1789. From the Records of the U.S. Senate

Digital technology and time pressures in today’s classroom raise questions about whether teaching cursive handwriting is relevant or worthwhile.  However, growing research says cursive provides benefits that keyboarding does not and linking handwriting to academic success.  Linda Shrewsbury, creator and president of CursiveLogic, will demonstrate her intuitive approach for teaching cursive handwriting. Consider this event one step towards preserving cursive for the next generation.

This program is presented in partnership with Fahrney’s Pens.

Independence Day Celebration 
Saturday, July 4

Join us July 4thFlags on National Archives Building as we celebrate our nation’s birthday! Exhibits, including the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, which houses the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, will be open 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. From 11 a.m.–4 p.m., enjoy hands-on family activities, including story time, crafts and more!  Meet John and Abigail Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Ned Hector, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

This program is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the support of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and John Hancock Financial.

History, Heroes, and Treasures SleepoverSleepover in the Rotunda
July 25-26

Kids ages 8-12 along with their adults will participate in activities, talk with historical figures from history, sleep in the Rotunda near the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and make memories to last a lifetime. Learn more.

Genealogy Camp for Kids Ages 12 and Up
July 20-24, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.

Girl in Exhibit

This hands-on camp will introduce the basics of genealogy research and help kids discover how to use the resources of the National Archives to be history detectives into their past!
Learn more.

This program is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the support of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and John Hancock Financial.

Immigration Workshop: Professional Development for Teachers
Thursday, August 6, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

Ellis Island Menu

Menu for the Immigrant Dining Room on Ellis Island, 1/21/1920. From the Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Join us as we explore the topic of immigration using primary sources from the National Archives. During this three-hour workshop, you will examine a selection of high quality facsimiles of documents from Ellis Island, Angel Island, and other immigration stations across the United States.

Together we will brainstorm innovative means to introduce these rich sources into your teaching. The workshop will also include a tour of the National Archives’ new permanent exhibit Records of Rights. To register or for more information, email with the subject line: Immigration Workshop.

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Summer Professional Development

We still have a few spots available for summertime PD around the country.

Image of Wong Kim Ark who was denied reentry to the United States upon his return from an 1894 visit to China

Denied reentry to the United States upon his return from an 1894 visit to China, San Francisco–born Wong Kim Ark was detained by the collector of customs in San Francisco. Wong filed a habeas corpus action against his detention. (Image from Departure Statement of Wong Kim Ark, 11/5/1894. From the Records of District Courts of the United States. National Archives Identifier: 2641490)

Teacher Professional Development at the National History Day National Contest

Teaching Historical Inquiry using Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange through Multiple Lenses of Immigration

June 15, 9–11:30 a.m. at the University of Maryland

How is history researched and written? Do students know how to read historical texts? How can you help your students construct a historical narrative and interpret historical themes? How can you enhance interest in a national topic by making local connections?

Join the National Archives for a session that will explore Chinese Immigration and the Ganges slave ship case. The session will focus on specific areas of instruction that are tied to the Core Curriculum and C3 Framework such as close reading of primary sources to develop sequencing skills and understanding of source perspective, using secondary sources to corroborate and diversify the inquiry process, understanding historic impact and context, developing an analytical thesis, and presenting a case study to demonstrate the power of informed action. This case study will show the importance of using multiple historical sources and connecting local history to larger national and international narratives.

Teachers will receive digital documents from the immigration case studies, tutorials for (our online tool for teaching with documents), sample lesson plans, and resource sheets.

Register online.

Primarily Teaching DC 2014 Participants

Primarily Teaching

Our summer institute for educators on using historical documents in the classroom. 

Each location will explore a specific topic using original documents in our archival holdings:

  • The National Archives at Atlanta (Morrow, GA): To the Moon!: NASA Records,
    June 22–26
  • The National Archives at Chicago: The U.S. Encounters a World War: The WWI Homefront in the Midwest, June 22–26
  • The National Archives at Seattle: Effects of Lewis and Clark on Modern Native America, July 6–10
  • The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, IA: Case Studies from the Hoover Library, July 20–24

Participants will produce a learning activity on, and will have the opportunity to continue researching the case study or to independently research another topic.

Learn more and apply online.

2015 American Studies Summer Institute

The American Studies Summer Institute at The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Nature and Nation Transformed: Rethinking the Role of the Environment in America’s Past and Present

July 6–17, 2015 (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)

Join us this summer for an intensive two-week program of thought-provoking lectures and discussions led by distinguished scholars and guests. The American Studies Summer Institute, an annual program co-sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Boston and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, offers educators and graduate students the opportunity to explore in depth a topic drawn from American history, politics, culture, or social policy.

This year’s program, held at the Kennedy Library, will ask the following questions: How have the environment, geography, and climate shaped American lives and thought and, in turn, how have Americans transformed the physical world around them? How does investigating the interdependence of nature and human activity deepen our understanding of American history?

Learn more and register online; the deadline is May 29.

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Thanks, Teachers! Great finds!

During Teacher Appreciation Week, we give thanks to teachers around the world for all their hard work educating and guiding students!

Primarily Teaching DC 2014 Participants

Primarily Teaching at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC

We’d like to give a special thanks to the teachers who digitized some really cool documents from the holdings of the National Archives as part of our Primarily Teaching Summer Institute.

Female Drill Operator

Female Drill Operator at Watertown Arsenal,
1918. From the Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance. National Archives Identifier: 7450283. This document was digitized by teachers in our Primarily Teaching 2013 Summer Workshop in Boston.

For the last two summers, educators researching at our locations around the country — including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC — have found hundreds of written documents, maps, photographs, and more that make great teaching tools.

Teachers in Chicago

Primarily Teaching in Chicago

Our “digitization scholars,” as we call them, focus on documents that can be used in the classroom to demonstrate a particular historical concept or event, and ones that won’t be too difficult or overwhelming for students.

We’re looking forward to seeing new finds from this summer’s class of Primarily Teaching teachers as they research topics like: NASA, the WWI Homefront, the Effects of Lewis and Clark on Modern Native America, Chinese Immigration, and topics from the Herbert Hoover Library.


Thanks also to the National Archives Foundation, with the support of Texas Instruments, by whom Primarily Teaching is in part made possible.

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Space Race Teaching Activities

This Friday, May 1st is National Space Day.  How can you celebrate this day that highlights the achievements and benefits of space exploration with your students?

Apollo 11 Commemorative First Day Issue Stamp

Apollo 11 Commemorative First Day Issue Stamp from Postcard, 1969. From the White House Staff Member and Office Files (Nixon Administration) Collection. National Archives Identifier 1634230.

Visit DocsTeach, with its numerous primary sources related to the history of NASA and American space exploration, all from the holdings of the National Archives.

These primary sources come in a variety of forms, including written documents, photographs, and videos. Several DocsTeach activities teach students about the pioneering Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. These early manned space programs set the foundation for the modern space program.

The Mercury Program

Astronaut Scott Carpenter Looking inside his Aurora 7 Spacecraft

Astronaut Scott Carpenter looking inside his Mercury spacecraft capsule “Aurora 7” prior to launch on May 24, 1962. From the Records of the U.S. Senate. National Archives Identifier 7430760.

The political tension between the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II led to the Cold War and launched a Space Race between the two countries. This tension was the impetus behind the Mercury program. The United States wanted to prove it not only had the technology, but was capable of sending man into space.

The Space Race: Project Mercury activity allows older students to investigate the Space Race by analyzing a memorandum written by Mercury 7 astronauts to the Mercury program director.

The Gemini Program

Astronaut Edward H. White II's Space Walk on Gemini IV

Astronaut Ed White was the first American to walk in space during the Gemini IV mission on June 3, 1965. From the Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. National Archives Identifier 4728365.

In a speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, in September of 1962, President John F. Kennedy promised that the United States would send a man to the moon by the end of the decade.  With this promise, the Gemini program’s goal was to learn new techniques that would later help the United States in its exploration of the moon.

The Process of Early Space Flight: The Gemini Program gives younger students the opportunity to investigate the process of early space flight by sequencing a series of photographs from the Gemini missions.

The Apollo Program

Astronaut Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr. Posing on the Moon Next to the U.S. Flag

Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. posing on the moon next to the American flag on July 20, 1969. From the Records of the U.S. Information Agency. National Archives Identifier 593743.

Early American space exploration culminated with the Apollo program reaching the moon. In Landing a Man on the Moon: President Nixon and the Apollo Program, older students will be able to analyze documents to understand the impact and significance of the Apollo program. Students are urged to question if the Apollo program ended the Space Race.

By 1975, Americans and Russians partnered in the Apollo-Soyuz program to further explore space. In Apollo-Soyuz: Space Age Détente, older students can continue learning about the complex relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union and the role that space exploration played in the past.


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Art as Propaganda in World War I

Today’s post comes from National Archives volunteer Cynthia Peterman.

Two new WWI-related teaching activities on introduce students to artists who were employed to show the war to Americans back home: Artists Document World War I and WWI Propaganda and Art.

Doughboy Fighting through Barbed Wire Entanglement, 12/21/1918. From the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. National Archives Identifier 12060634.

Doughboy Fighting through Barbed Wire Entanglement, 12/21/1918. From the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. National Archives Identifier 12060634.

During the Great War, the government attempted to influence public opinion about the goals of military intervention in this European conflict. A large segment of the U.S. population was opposed to America’s entry into World War I. Therefore, the government attempted to influence popular opinion by sending American artists overseas to depict the conflict in ways that would remind Americans what their boys were fighting for.

Students today are buffeted by many types of media that vie for their attention. Advertisements (both physical and digital), music, and social media are all part of our media-saturated environment. They seek not only to claim the attention of young people, but attempt to influence their opinions about culture, politics, and more. In modern times, the word “propaganda” has become synonymous with falsehood, distortion and misrepresentation. As a result, many students become cynical about what they hear and see.

Before using these activities it is important to consider the following questions:

  • Is all propaganda misleading?
  • Do all forms of media create false impressions in order to influence the viewer?
  • What do we want students to know about why it is important to have a knowledgeable citizenry?

In “Artists Document World War I,” we are introduced to Walter Jack Duncan, one of eight artists who travelled to France to document the experience of U.S. troops in battle. Duncan’s drawings show both the enormity of the force sent overseas, as well as the results of war in the French countryside.

Segment of Walter Jack Duncan's drawing “Newly Arrived Troops Debarking at Brest"

This activity hones students’ attention in on a single drawing, the debarkation of American troops in 1918. Students are asked to think critically about the image, to explore the mood as well as the historical reality it depicts, and to consider the role of art in interpreting a scene.

Using the zoom/crop tool, students look at a small piece of the drawing and hypothesize what the image depicts before seeing it as part of the entire drawing. The activity also asks students to consider the role of art and photography as they influence the viewer’s opinion.

General Policy Reference the Work of Official Artists inside activity

WWI Propaganda and Art” presents students with five historical documents and two drawings (by WWI artists William James Aylward and Harvey Thomas Dunn) in order to consider how the military and government communicated their goals to the artists, the difference between how art and photography present a scene, as well as the dangerous conditions in which the artists were placed.

Using the Making Connections tool, students read historical documents, such as memos and letters, in order to identify the often conflicting aims of the artists, the military, civilian agencies and government agencies in depicting the war through art.

In addition, this activity compels students to ask important questions such as: Why did the military choose to send artists to the war zone when photographers could capture the same images? When the Acting Adjutant General says the “official artists [should] be employed in making pictures of subjects that cannot be adequately covered by the camera,” students need to think about how drawings and paintings create more drama and humanize the scene more than do photographs.

Finally, in our own day we expect reporters to travel to war zones (as well as scenes of disaster) to bring us our news. The World War I artists had little military training to prepare them. This activity pushes students to weigh putting people in hazardous situations in order to quench our hunger for information.

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Video Clips from Henry Ford’s Motion Picture Department

Yes, in addition to churning out motor vehicles, the Ford Motor Company once released films on a weekly basis.

Their motion picture department was one of the largest studios outside of Hollywood. By 1920, Ford films had 10–12 million viewers in theaters across the United States, plus foreign countries like France, Mexico, and Japan, according to the company newsletter.

While we usually associate Ford with the automobile assembly line, some of his films show other industrial processes (and cover a wide range of topics outside of industry as well). The 1920 film Playthings of Childhood / The Doll’s House provides a less common way to introduce the assembly line and industrialization to students: through toy-making.


You can find more films produced by the Ford Motor Company on our YouTube channel, as well as in our online catalog.

The Ford collection is unique in the holdings of the National Archives since most of our records were created by the Federal Government. In 1963 the Ford Company donated the historical films, covering 1914–1945, to the National Archives.

The Archives premiered a film highlighting the collection and Henry Ford’s interest in moving pictures — Mirror of America. It serves as an introduction to the Ford films and cover topics such as:

  • mechanization;
  • women in the workforce;
  • commemoration of the Civil War;
  • WWI, new weaponry, efforts on the homefront, and wartime mobilization;
  • presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Warren G. Harding;
  • how cars, electrification, and running water changed American life;
  • camping with Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and Thomas Edison;
  • and, of course, a plug for the Model T with a look into the Model T assembly line: “A car comes off the end of the line every 10 seconds.”


You can learn much more about Mirror of America and the Ford films in the post “Henry Ford’s Mirror of America,” excerpts of which were adapted for this post, on our sister blog, The Unwritten Record.

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Using Primary Sources to Show Friendship Between Nations

This post features excerpts from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center’s “Cherry Blossoms, Friendship and the National Archives.” 

First Lady Lady Bird Johnson Planting a Tree During the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival

First Lady Lady Bird Johnson Planting a Tree During the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival, Tidal Basin, Washington, DC, 4/6/1965. From the White House Photo Office Collection LBJ-WHPO. National Archives Identifier 5730832.

Last month, we centered several family activities around primary source documents in our “Friendship Between Nations” Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day at the National Archives.

The core ideas behind these museum-based learning experiences can be adapted for the classroom too:

Geography — A GeoFind Challenge gave visitors an opportunity to learn interesting facts related to gift giving between nations. Did you know that the King of Siam offered President Lincoln an elephant to help with farming but he graciously declined? While several participants already knew, others learned that the city of DC’s many cherry blossom trees were originally a gift from Japan. We met students from all over the world who enjoyed the geography, history and political connections tied to this mapping challenge.

Lincoln to the King of Siam

Page 2 of Lincoln’s Letter, available on DocsTeach. Click on the image for a larger version.

Your students can also learn about foreign affairs and diplomacy by discussing gifts to the United States and mapping the foreign governments from whom they came. Here are some primary sources to get you started:

Treaties — Especially meaningful was the amount of time that families took to work together to create a family treaty. Many took the task to heart as they learned that this type of agreement between two nations required conversation, cooperation and compromise. A wide variety of ideas were discussed. For example, younger family members agreed to clean up their rooms in exchange for time to play with a special toy. Teenagers agreed to balance their screen time with in person family time together. After using language from a treaty between the US and Japan and writing the document in special script, families worked together to bind them with a fabric cover.

French Exchange Copy of the Agreement to Pay France for the Louisiana Purchase

Agreement to Pay France for the Louisiana Purchase, available on DocsTeach.

You can adapt this exercise for classroom use and then introduce students to treaties such as:

You can read more about our Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day, including other family activities and our partnership with the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC), in a blog post written by the Center for Innovation in Early Learning’s director, Betsy Bowers, on the SEEC blog: “Cherry Blossoms, Friendship and the National Archives.”

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25th Anniversary New York City History Day!

Last month, over 400 students from across New York City participated in the 25th anniversary of New York City History Day.  This annual contest is hosted and organized by the Museum of the City of New York.

After months of researching their topics and crafting their performance, exhibit, documentary, website or essay, students in grades 6 through 12 shared their projects with the public.  This year’s theme was “Leadership and Legacy in History,” so topics included such diverse subjects as  Lucille Ball, George Balanchine, Frederick Douglass, and Baron Von Steuben.

Exhibit Boards

Junior and Senior Exhibit Boards on Display
Photo by Lissa River


Juliette Low and the Legacy of the Girl Scouts Performance
Photo by Lissa River

Throughout the fall and winter, hundreds of these students visited the National Archives to find out how to find and use primary sources in their NHD projects.  Many of these students did well on competition day.  Over 1/3 of the students that finished in 1st, 2nd or 3rd place attended a workshop at the National Archives.

This year was extra special because the National Archives Foundation, through the support of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, funded awards and giveaways for participants. First place winners in every category received $250.  A special category “Outstanding Use of Archival Sources” was created for both junior and senior divisions.  Winners in that category received $250 as well.  In addition, all competitors in NYC History Day received a t-shirt for their participation.

The next step for 1st and 2nd place winners is the New York State History Day competition in Cooperstown, NY at the end of this month.


Awards Ceremony
Photo by Lissa River

For more photos of the competition and awards ceremony, visit the Museum of the City of New York’s Flickr Page. For more information about New York City History Day and for a list of all winners, visit MCNY’s New York City History Day page.

The National Archives’ History Day activities are made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation, through the support of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

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New DocsTeach Activity: Congress in Article I of the U.S. Constitution

In our newest activity on, students match primary source documents to clauses from Article I of the United States Constitution that detail six powers of Congress.

A rolled up "railroad bill" caricature, with top hat in hand and O.K. stamps from the House and Senate, rings the White House doorbell.

The railroad bill caricature, with top hat in hand and O.K. stamps from both the House and the Senate on his frock coat, rings the doorbell at the White House. “Anyone Home?,” 2/24/1920, From the Records of the U.S. Senate. National Archives Identifier 6011590.

The Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives created Congress in Article I of the United States Constitution to reinforce the idea of separation of powers between branches by highlighting six of the powers the Founders specifically granted to Congress.

We suggest using this lesson to introduce students in grades 5–8 to studying the text of the Constitution.  Students may complete this activity in pairs or small groups.  The activity can be found on our special DocsTeach page, Teaching with the Records of Congress, or directly here.

Congress in Article I activity

Students will begin the activity by analyzing each document for a possible link to Article I of the Constitution. They should match each document with one clause from Article I, identifying six pairs to reveal some of the characteristics and powers of Congress.

Once they have matched the pairs and clicked “I’m Done,” they will be prompted to reflect on the pairs they have identified and the rest of Article I.

A final class discussion will follow based on the question: What characteristics and powers of Congress justify its being referred to as the “people’s branch of government”?

You can follow up on this activity with the lesson Teaching Six Big Ideas in the Constitution from the Center for Legislative Archives.

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