Capable and competent instructors that we are, we are quite capable of engaging an audience who is usually less than thrilled to be taking a "required" history course. But we do not have to do it entirely on our own. What follows are a variety of digital resources that can be used inside and outside the classroom for your students that can help the course come alive. The beauty of these resources is that they are public domain or open content, allowing for much more dynamic use of them without violating copyright and potentially creating a vast collection of resources that can allow the instructor to bypass the traditional textbook (and its hefty price).
Most History and English instructors are familiar with Project Gutenberg, but not nearly as many are familiar with the Internet Archive. This is one of my favorite places to visit and I find all sorts of interesting and curious artifacts. From many books (in digital form from scans--not just text) to old time radio to television and film, the Internet Archive is dedicated to making all public domain materials available--even software and music. It is abundant with a great deal of material that you can use for your class or send your students to explores and turn them into virtual anthropologists and archeologists.
The Archive's Audio & Radio section has a great range of material from public radio recordings, to volunteer-narrated audiobooks of public domain works, to actual speeches, interviews and even old time radio shows. For instance, you can find all the 1945 Episodes of Amos & Andy, a speech by Aldous Huxley called "The Ultimate Revolution," Orson Welles' 1938 Mercury Theater recordings (which includes the famous War of the Worlds), and of course, Speeches from Hitler's Germany.
In the department of books, the bastion of the history course, you can find an abundance of resources on Archive.org, such as history books or a great range of primary sources depending on your focus. You can find some of the most curious texts such as Observations On The Mussulmauns Of India (1917), Occultism And Modern Science (1923), What the moon saw : and other tales (1866), Reflections on the causes of the rise and fall of the Roman empire (1758) by Baron de Montesquieu and my personal favorite: Letters from a cat: published by her mistress for the benefit of all cats and the amusement of little children (1879). But what's great about the books on Archive.org as opposed to the Guttenberg Project is that there are many books that are full-scans, not just text. This means they will including images, page layout, and the ability to download the ebook to read on different platforms.
Archive.org also has a great deal to offer in terms of videos and movies--all of which can be streamed or downloaded. This includes access to documentaries, feature films, television shows (from 1940s & 1950s), old commercials, news reports, famous speeches, and much more. There is plenty of archival film to explore here for you and your students. Some of the curious items I found, include Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (1940), an entire collection to be found on September 11 Television, a personal favorite, Edison's version of Frankenstein (1910), a curious look for people considering cultural history, Adventures of Dr Fu Manchu S1E11 (1956), and a good documentary on Ghosts Of Rwanda Genocide.
Finally, there is the Internet History available at Archive.org. This neat tool allows you to follow back on the history of the internet and in particular, different websites. For instance, you can examine how different media sites cover the same event or study how a website has changed and adjusted over the years. Here are some great examples:
|NSCC Website August 21, 2002|
|NSCC Website June 24, 2005|
|Boston.com Main page 9/11/2001|
|CNN.com Main page 9/11/2001|
Have you tried any of the above resources? What was your favorite? What artifact did you uncover or do you use in your class?