Smithsonian

Artifacts —the objects we make and use—give history its tangible form. They can be as important and useful as primary sources as are correspondence, pieces of legislation, and other documents. Studied together, artifacts and documents help students understand the complexity of any historical question.

Compare and Contrast is a strategy used to help students analyze similarities and differences. Applied to museum exhibitions and resources, comparisons can be made between either distinctly different or closely related documents, objects, or other primary sources. Comparisons can be made between familiar and unfamiliar objects and between concrete examples and abstract concepts. Another approach is to compare an object from the perspective of different disciplines.

Four Corners/ Jigsaw organizes students into subgroups to focus on one aspect of a learning unit, then brings them together as a full group to report and compile the information gathered. This strategy is especially effective in analyzing a collection of primary sources such as an object, a photograph, and a document that all relate to each other. By focusing on one primary source and then adding information about the others, students come to understand the strengths and limitations of various types of evidence and the necessity for corroboration.

Graphic Organizers such as charts, tables or concept maps are tools that help students find key ideas and relationships among ideas. Developing a museum graphic organizer focuses students on answering historical questions and encourages them to identify themes, note connections, and link specific observations to larger concepts.

PERSIA (Political, Economic, Religious, Social, Intellectual, Artistic) helps students analyze complex subjects. By considering in turn different dimensions of a historical period or event, students probe deeply into the many facets and implications of the past. Because of the breadth of resources in museums, students can readily find evidence to support their investigations into all six of these areas.