Our Favorite Resources

We know finding primary sources for use in your classroom can be both challenging and time-consuming. Worse yet, sometimes it’s hard to even know where to start! To help you locate sources, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite resources from ALPLM and a few of our favorite go-to sites when creating our own museum activities. We’ve also included a few tips and pointers with each site to optimize your search experience.

ALPLM’s Original Records

Papers of Abraham Lincoln

Papers of Abraham Lincoln: PAL is a “documentary editing project dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating, and publishing online all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime.” Currently, PAL has processed approximately 5,000 records in the collection. To find records in the collection, we recommend using the search tools provided to narrow your search. You should also read the “Search Tips” link in the toolbar before getting started

Chronicling Illinois

Chronicling Illinois: Chronicling Illinois contains an extensive collection of records related to both life in Illinois and President Lincoln. Records are listed by collection on the main page, however, you can use the search bar to expedite your search. If you click on the “+” sign here and choose Advanced Search, you can also specify additional parameters to refine your search. If you’re looking for inspiration, this is a fun site to peruse to see what you find!

Boys in Blue

Boys in Blue: ALPLM holds the photographs of over 8,000 Illinois soldiers who served in the Civil War. These images have been scanned and are in the process of being cataloged and uploaded to this site. Currently, we have photographs up of soldiers from the 4th, 10th, and 11th Illinois Cavalry and the 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th, 17th, 26th, 33rd, 37th, 53rd, 56th, 64th, 77th, 86th, 101st, 108th, 114th, 117th, 120th, 122nd, and 130th Illinois Infantry Regiments.

ALPLM's Oral History Program

ALPLM’s Oral History Program: ALPLM’s Oral History program “preserves the first-hand accounts of people who have lived eventful lives, given voice to those who are too often overlooked by traditional histories.” Our collections are Illinois-centric and include: African American Chronicles, Agriculture, Community Stories, Education, Family Memories, Historians Speak, Illinois Statecraft, Immigrant Stories, People of Faith, Sports, Veterans Remember, and many more! Be sure to check back often, as we’re still actively collecting individual’s stories.

Search ALPLM's Collection

Search ALPLM’s Collection: ALPLM uses both ArchivesSpace and CARLI to provide access to our resources. To get the best response to your search inquiry, we recommend running it in both databases. Further, as a library and archive open to the public, we invite you (and your students) to research our collections in the Library’s Reading Room. For more information on individual visits, see the Research page. To learn more about bringing your students, visit the Enhance Your Experience page.

External Resources


DocsTeach: Created by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), DocsTeach includes three sections—Explore (find primary sources), Discover (teaching activities), Create (platform to make your own lessons); you can also create an account to save your finds for future use. If you don’t find the records you’re looking for at DocsTeach, you can also search NARA’s Online Catalog, but be sure to use the tools they provide to narrow your results. NARA also provides great primary source analysis worksheets for novice and intermediate learners.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress: LOC provides a variety of classroom resources for educators including primary source sets, lesson plans, presentations and activities, and historical context to teach their collections. As part of their Teaching with Primary Sources Program, they created a phenomenal guide called Using Primary Sources.

Digital Public Library of America

Digital Public Library of America: DPLA is an aggregator of archival records—if you do a general search be prepared for a long list of results. If this happens, use the tools they provide to refine your results. If you’re looking for quick resources, be sure to check their Primary Source Sets. Each set includes context, a curated set of records, additional resources, and a teaching guide. You can also create an account here to save content for later.

Smithsonian Learning Lab

Smithsonian Learning Lab: As the Smithsonian’s newest education project, Learning Lab encourages educators, across a variety of subjects, to create an account, discover and save new resources, create collections of resources for students, share these materials, and learn more from the professional community within the lab. For a short introduction, watch this video or visit the site and play. They also offer online office hours on Tuesdays for new users.

The National Archives

The National Archives: To highlight their phenomenal collection of records from the UK and around the world, TNA’s Education and Outreach section provides sections for teachers and students, as well as an array of resources divided by time period. Materials are divided by stages (or learning levels) and their collection includes resources suitable for younger children. The section is full of resources, so set aside some time to dig in!

The National Humanities Center

The National Humanities Center: Situated in the Research Triangle in North Carolina, NHC devotes their work to advancing “significant humanistic study.” Highlighting the work of scholars across a variety of fields, their online educator resources include classroom lessons, recorded webinars, primary source archives, digital textbooks, podcasts, and TeacherServe—a collection of essays by leading humanities scholars to provide content guidance to educators teaching American history and literature.

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