The "National Archives Experience: Digital Vaults" is a site that features digital items (mostly created or associated with the federal government) from the National Archives' extensive collection relating to United States history. The home page is organized in an idea web of random images that can be filtered by subject tags. When clicked and enlarged, most of the images are accompanied by identifying details, historical context, and links to further educational and research resources. Every time an object is moved to the center of the idea web, the web of images is reconstituted to demonstrate connections between materials that students might not think of or see otherwise. The site provides interactive exercises and a tool to create posters, as well as slideshows with audio, captions, and multiple images.
1. The student will have access to material for research related to the United States.
2. The student will learn about connections between different types of primary sources.
3. The student will potentially learn about a major event, topic, or particular period of time.
4. The format will help students have easy access to multiple types of documents that they might not usually know how to find.
Target Student Population:
Middle school, high school, and undergraduates. Also, great for teachers trying to put together a last minute presentation with images for a class.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Working knowledge of tags
Type of Material:
• Lecture preparation for educators
• Homework lesson for students
• Research paper support
Reviewed in IE 7; technical requirements: Java Script and Adobe Flash Player 10
Evaluation and Observation
• Well thought out and customizable resources for instructors
• Fun and challenging knowledge testing feature
• “Matrix” exploration of source material allows for in-depth research of topics
• Excellent primary-source material with description of sources
• Primary-source driven lacking a general overview of the subject
• Poorly documented introduction to the site
• Students will need training to use site effectively
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
• Effective tool for moving from general to specific information
• Resource for teachers developing lectures and projects
• Tool for students creating research presentations and papers
• Creative exploration and experiential learning
• Requires a basic understanding of a topic before effective use of the site
• While train-of-thought exploration is easy, creating a concise linear lesson requires a substantial learning-curve investment for the instructor.
• Hard to locate instructor resources
• Limited introduction and overview
• Poorly marked directions
Other Issues and Comments:
• Some of the best material in the site is almost hidden at the bottom of the page. Educators should visit the “Educators and Students” link at the bottom of the page for excellent resource material.
• The “Pathways” tab leads to an excellent “challenge” feature to assist students to explore relevant resource material.