By Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
In the twenty-first century there are many outstanding resources for social teachers online with the availability of new technology. The advancement of multimedia capabilities on websites has allowed museums to offer the public access to many of their exhibitions and artifacts through digital technology, from the comfort of their own home. We have provided some good examples of museum websites that can offer social studies teachers great classroom resources. We encourage you to explore the museums in order to appreciate the vast amount of resources available for teachers, this includes lesson plans, primary sources and artifacts such as old letters, photos, journals, videos and documentaries that shed light on a wide array of topics from the past and present, and offering insight into the future.
Helpful Artifacts and Resources in Virtual Museums for Teachers
In order to offer an idea of the various teaching resources available online we highlight particular aspects of various websites that we felt might be useful or interesting to social studies educators.
The African American history museum at the Smithsonian has Harriet Tubman’s personal hymnal and also here, which can viewed online. There is also a newly discovered photo of a much younger Harriet Tubman that one may find interesting. Another interesting artifact is the freedom papers of a former slave named Joseph Trammell also at the African American History Museum.
There are a plethora of incredible resources at other museums online. At American History Museum there is an exhibit entitled “The Unforgettably Forgettable President: A Look at Mr. Buchanan” about the unremarkable presidency of James Buchanan. Another fascinating online museum resource is George Washington’s Mount Vernon. One of the highlights of the site is a virtual tour of his mansion. Mount Vernon’s website also has an amazing section for teachers including extensive lesson plans for all grades that can be very useful in the classroom. The Canadian Museum of History as a wonderful interactive exhibit on the history of toys.
The Anne Frank house is another remarkable museum with an incredible virtual museum online. The site includes many helpful resources for teachers including short videos, this timeline of events during the time that she lived. The Anne Frank House museum also has a great teacher resource that includes a digital lesson about Anne Frank and the history surrounding her life. The National Women’s History Museum also has a great section for teachers and students. Another interesting exhibit on the National Women’s History Museum website is on Claudette Colvin. She was the 15 year child that refused to give up her seat for white passengers nine months before Rosa Parks. This section includes some very well done interviews and videos on Colvin.
Also particularly interesting is the work that Google has been doing in offering databases of seemingly countless digital resources with their Google Art Project. This an incredible resource for teachers, students and the general public to see digital imagery from past and present from all walks of life. The Google Art project “help its users discover and view important artworks online in high resolution and detail, Google partnered with more than 60 museums and galleries from around the world to archive and document priceless pieces of art and to provide virtual tours of museums using Google Street View technology. The Google Art Project features fine art from the White House, the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, and even São Paulo street art from Brazil” (https://tinyurl.com/j8c98ch, 2019). For example, the Life Photo Collection on the Google website offers countless photographs from America’s past taken by Life Magazine photographers over time. Similarly is Google’s Arts and Culture site. We recommend visiting their exhibit entitled King’s Pilgrimage to India, showing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife visiting India, via a photo exhibit. The Hubble Space Telescope: Our Window on the Universe exhibit is also very fascinating, an well done integration of social studies, science and technology.
Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
National Museum of African American History and Culture
National Museum of the American Indian
National Museum of American History
Other Virtual Museums
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
National Cowboy and Western heritage Museum
The Museum of Science Fiction
National Museum of Women’s History
Jim Crow Museum
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
911 Memorial Museum
American Museum of Natural History
Virtual museums are a great way to bring content to students who go to schools that may be near any museums or can’t afford to pay for them. This way the information will be retained as seeing actual artifacts makes history seem more real. I know when I was taking social studies classes, history seemed so far away and almost like made-up stories. I often had a hard time believing many things actually happened. These virtual museums are coinvent, fast, interactive and will keep students engaged. I only wish I knew of this sooner! Technology has come a long way.
I am so excited to learn of this information on virtual museums. I have always been fascinated with history in general, a topic which does not interest my husband, so I’m always trying to find time to explore things on my own. Now that I know about virtual museums, I think I’ll be able to explore those museums that I may never get to visit. I just think it’s so interesting to see how we have evolved over time from us as people to our architecture and engineering and our popular culture and “fads”. These resources can be a great tool for teachers today. Most students are interested in anything digital; so being able to use a virtual museum may be able to encourage better learning for today’s youth.
Virtual museums have always interested me because they allow us to view a museum that may be far out of our reach. Virtual museums allow people to experience the exhibits and learn about them from the comfort of a home or classroom. It is also another way that we as teachers can incorporate technology into the classroom. I believe virtual museums to be a valuable asset to future teachers and their students.
I love how much technology has been incorporated into the education system. I love the thought of this “online museum resource for teachers”. One reason I think this is such a great thing to have is because it’s something anyone can access and it’s easy for everyone to figure out. I think the use of technology like this in the education field is helping us advance in how we display knowledge and how we get people physically involved with the work.
I have to say, Virtual Museums would be beneficial to teachers, with the prep time and the not having to plan too much, but it wont benefit the students. Students need the real deal teacher right there. They need to be able to stop the professor and go back over something if needed. Some kids need you to restated in a different way that they might understand it better. There are some perks, but I think it is safer to just stick with real deal teachers. The students can go off on the weekend or have homework to just look up a virtual museum every once in a while, but I wouldn’t use it all the time as a new coming middle grades educator myself.
Virtual Museums could be very beneficial to teachers if there are ways for students to be engaged. I think that showing pictures of artifacts on the projector would get boring after a few. Recently I went to the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati and the only thing I remember was a film I watched in a theater. I think reenacted films would be a great asset to Virtual Museums because it helps students better understand historical content.
Virtual museums are interactive and will keep the students engaged as they learn. The teacher will also have less prep time for a lesson that incorporates this resource. Visuals will also help the students to remember key information. Like the Anne Frank virtual tour will put a vivid image to the scenery and help provide a visual to key information to what the students should learn about that time period. The teacher could possibly make a quiz for the end of the “virtual museum tour” so that the students can test their knowledge.
Virtual museums are a great tool to be used in the classroom. They allow students to explore and become engaged with something that is otherwise not easily accessible. Nowadays, schools are limited on funds and field trips don’t happen as often as they used to so using virtual museums in the classroom can help students feel as if they are there. Additionally, many assignments and projects can come from using these resources. I also enjoy how you mentioned the use of the Google Art Project which can lead students into an endless amount of interesting archives from all over the world.
Having students look at virtual museums in class brings another dimension into the classroom. It allows students to go beyond the classroom and explore different historical aspects. They can also look at different exhibits that are interests them and it allows teachers to understand their students better on an outside basis.
Having online resources for virtual Museums is a great alternative to bring into the classroom when going to actual museums isn’t accessible. The article provides several options for students to explore on their own.