Post a composite review
Unpost a composite review
Search all MERLOT
Select to go to your profile
Select to go to your workspace
Select to go to your Dashboard Report
Select to go to your Content Builder
Select to log out
Search Terms
Enter username
Enter password
Please give at least one keyword of at least three characters for the search to work with. The more keywords you give, the better the search will work for you.
Select OK to launch help window
Cancel help


Advanced Search


Peer Review

National Archives Experience: Digital Vaults



Overall Numeric Rating:

4.25 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 4.25 stars
Ease of Use: 4.25 starsstar
Reviewed: Mar 31, 2013 by History Editorial Board
Overview: 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.
Type of Material: Collection
Recommended Uses: • Lecture preparation for educators • Homework lesson for students • Research paper support
Technical Requirements: Reviewed in IE 7; technical requirements: Java Script and Adobe Flash Player 10
Identify Major Learning Goals: 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

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: • 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
Concerns: • 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

Rating: 4.25 stars
Strengths: • 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
Concerns: • 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.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.25 stars
Strengths: • Highly visual • Highly interactive • Highly customizable • Excellent educator resources templates
Concerns: • 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.