Teaching with Primary Sources

Archives and Special Collections staff offer a range of services for instructors interested in teaching with and about the books, manuscripts and other material in our collections. Building class discussions or assignments around archival documents or rare books can provide an engaging, multi-sensory experience for your students, one that often leads to unexpected insights.

Lesson Catalog

Lesson Catalog 
A class may visit in order to examine special collections holdings specific to a course topic, but we also invite faculty to use Archives and Special Collections holdings to explore concepts such as the nature of evidence and the interpretation of historical materials. We are also available to give your class hands-on instruction in finding and working with primary source materials and to assist individual students who choose to pursue research projects or assignments using Archives and Special Collections materials.

If you have any questions or just want to discuss how to incorporate the collections in your course, feel free to stop in or send an email to Paige Roberts at

Instruction Resources

Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy (Developed by the SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force on the Development of Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy, approved 2018).
These guidelines articulate the range of knowledge, skills, and abilities required to effectively use primary sources. While the main audience for this document is librarians, archivists, teaching faculty, and others working with college and university students, the guidelines have been written to be sufficiently flexible for use in K-12 and in general public settings as well. The guidelines articulate crucial skills for navigating the complexity of primary sources and codify best practices for utilizing these materials.
Based on an award-winning project at Brooklyn Historical Society, shares articles and sample lessons plans for effectively integrating active learning and primary source material into your curriculum.

Marcelle Doheny teaching History 100 class using rare books in Special Collections
Marcelle Doheny teaching History 100 class using rare books in Special Collections

Oliver Wendell Holmes Library || Phillips Academy