Resources for AHW 5199B Using the Past: Primary Source Documents Inside and Out of the Social Studies Classroom

| July 8, 2012

This is just a dramatization. Your own archival adventure awaits you!

This is a virtual reference guide to resources for Timothy Patterson and Alexander Pope’s Summer 2012 course AHW 5199B Using the Past: Primary Source Documents Inside and Out of the Social Studies Classroom.

Coauthors: Leanora Lange ( and Anne Hays (

Table of Contents

Library Catalogs

TC archives: PocketKnowledge

Digital archives outside TC

Physical archives

Library Services and Publications

Library catalogs


EDUCAT is the online library catalog at Teachers College. It shows all the books, journals, e-journals, e-books, media, and other resources available specifically at TC.

CLIO is the online catalog for all of the Columbia University libraries, excluding Teachers College, Columbia Law School, and Jewish Theological Seminary. If you cannot find resources on EDUCAT, then search for them in CLIO.

For both catalogs, if you already know the resource you want, you should search by title or author. If you do not know these, then a good option is to search by subject.


Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) are the official subject terms used in academic libraries in the United States. Some subject headings relevant to this course are listed below. Search for these under the “subject” tab in EDUCAT or by selecting “subject” in the drop-down menu in CLIO.

Social sciences — Study and teaching

Social sciences — Study and teaching (Elementary)

Social sciences — Study and teaching (Secondary)

History–Study and teaching

History–Study and teaching (Elementary)

History–Study and teaching (Secondary)

United States — History — Study and teaching

History — [time period, e.g. 20th century]

Civics — Study and Teaching

New York (State) — History

New York (N.Y.) — History

New York (State) — New York — Social conditions

When you search by subject, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Your initial search results usually consist of a list of more specific subject headings. Don’t be intimidated! Usually, the subject heading that you searched for will be listed at the top. Just click on it to see a list of books with that subject heading.
  2. For subject searches, EDUCAT will sort results alphabetically by title. It often helps to sort the list differently according to your interest. For example, to see the most recently published results, sort the results by reverse year.
  3. If you have already found one book and would like to locate resources similar to it, click on the title of the book you know to access its catalog record, and then choose the “Find similar items” tab. From here, click on any subject heading of interest, and the entire subject heading search process will begin again.

For more details on how to find subject headings on your own and search with them, see this guide for searching by subject in EDUCAT.


The subject headings in the list above which include “Study and teaching” will lead you directly to curriculum materials. However, not all curriculum materials are given “Study and teaching” subjects headings. To broaden your results, you can also search by subjects without “Study and teaching” attached or just by keyword. For further tips, see this detailed overview of how to search for textbooks.

The most recent curriculum materials are located in the library’s second floor reading room. Since TC uses the Library of Congress system which organizes its books by subject, it is always a good idea to scan the shelves around books of interest to you to find their friends and neighbors, all of which are usually related in some way.

Historical curriculum materials (those published before 1990) are held in closed stacks. These can be accessed by searching the catalog for materials of interest and requesting them by clicking the link that appears below the record.

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TC archives: PocketKnowledge


What kinds of items tend to be in pocket knowledge?

Pocket knowledge is the institutional repository for Teachers College, so it holds papers, dissertations, and other works authored by TC faculty, staff, students, and alumni. It is also the digital archive of the library, which means it holds digitized items of historical value to TC and/or the education field.  This includes correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, diaries, and other items. For instance, the diaries of William Kilpatrick are in PocketKnowledge, as are Victor D’Amico’s architectural drawings and papers.

Who has access?
Teachers College and Columbia students, faculty, staff, and alumni.


First, you need an account to view files.

To open an account: you need to be a TC or Columbia student. Click “log in” and then “sign up” which will walk you through the steps.


To find items, you can enter search terms either in “pockets” or in “tags,” or, for the most exhaustive results, try “search all.” (To do this, click the advanced options, and select “all.”) To survey what collections exist in the database, click “search and browse all items” at the top of the screen, which will allow you to browse.


Items are stored in Pockets, which is a collection of items linked by a common topic; you may want to simply browse the pockets to see what types of collections we have. You can also browse tags, which are descriptors providing access points to individual items across the collections (ie pockets). Tags operate similarly to “subject terms” in EDUCAT or the “thesaurus” in an electronic database of articles. It’s handy to know which terms someone else used to describe an item because we all describe things differently.


There are many, but here is a small sampling:

Manuscript Group 1 (valuable education manuscripts circa 1682-1983 written by a host of famous historical figures)

Rothman Lantern Slide Collection (images from WW1)

Florence Nightingale Collection

Historic Portraits of TC Faculty Collection

Adelaide Nutting Historical Nursing Collection

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Digital archives outside TC

There are numerous digital archives that you can visit online, many of which also offer teaching aids to help educators use their archive materials in your classroom. Whether you use their existing educational models or not, you can certainly generate ideas from their lesson plans, or simply develop your own using these fantastic digital archives.

Here is a list of local archives with digital collections, by region:


New York Historical Society Curriculum Library (Coordinated with the NYS teaching standards, and include lesson plans)

National Archives Docs Teach (Ready-made lesson plans, collections by theme to build your own lesson plans around, and software that allows you to build a lesson plan online.)

National Archives at New York City Educational Materials (This is the local arm of the National Archives. View specific lesson plans and collections from the local branch here in NYC.)

New York City Department of Records Digital Collections (The Municipal Archives collects office records, manuscript material, still and moving images, ledger volumes, vital records, maps, blueprints, and sound recordings from the NYC municipal government starting in 1950 through the present. The digital archives makes available 870,000 items from their vast physical collection.)

Nueva York Classroom Materials (A guide to using the Nueva York exhibit from the New York Historical Society, which explores New York’s history with Spain and Latin America from 1613-1945.)

NYPL digital library (A fairly astonishing array of digitized collections from the NYPL.)

Museum of the City of New York Collections portal (The digital collection of the Museum of the City of New York, now containing over 100,000 images.)


Brooklyn Historical Society Classroom Kits (Curriculum kits, curriculum guides, and downloadable lesson plans to the BHS’s exhibits, featuring their historical archives.)

Brooklyn Museum (A portal to the Brooklyn Museum digital collection, organized by type of art. They also feature an education link providing educational materials.)

Brooklyn Public Library Digital Collections (Digitized historical materials including photograph galleries, playbills, children’s books, and a guide to the civil war collection, which includes lesson plans.)


The Library of Congress’s Digital Archives are so excellent I wanted to list this here as well.

Library of Congress Digital Archives

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Physical Archives


There are several ways to locate primary resources that may be of interest to you. These include searching online catalogs, national or institutional archival databases, or inquiring directly at individual institutions.

Any institution could potentially have an archive, from small experimental theaters to schools or governmental agencies. If you have an interest in a particular institution, you should contact that institution directly to inquire if they have an archive and whether you may access it.

Here is a very small selection of some of New York City’s largest institutions with physical archives:

Columbia University’s Archival Collections Portal

New York Public Library Archival Materials

Finding Aids Portal for New York University’s Fales Library & Special Collections,  The Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor ArchivesNew York University ArchivesNew York Historical Society, and the Brooklyn Historical Society.

If you are curious to see where else in the world collections on an individual or group might be held, you can search Worldcat (short for “world catalog”). To do this, use the advanced search, select “archival material” as the format, and search by keyword. Once you locate a collection of interest, you can inquire at the individual institution to get access.

Archive Finder is another large directory of archival materials which indexes names and detailed subject heading for collections and repositories in the United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland. Beware that the search results are not listed by relevance but in alphabetical order.

For further tips on locating physical archival collections, visit the Columbia University subject guide for archives and manuscripts collections, which offers a wealth of resources on searching for archival collections at Columbia and beyond.


Finding aids are the documents created by archivists to describe and give context to collections and help users identify what parts of the collection are of interest to them. They usually consist of the following sections, which may vary in title:

  • Title and years of coverage: The title is usually the name of the person who collected the documents. While the collection will be most closely related to this person, it may hold contents of interest on other individuals. Be sure the years match those you are interested in.
  • Overview: provides the size of the collection (usually in linear feet or number of boxes), its creator, and a brief abstract.
  • Administrative information: details guidelines for citation and any access restrictions.
  • Historical or biographical note: summarizes the life of an individual or the history of an institution and can serve as a starting point for further biographical research.
  • Scope and content note: describes the content of the collection including topics, types of materials, and years covered.
  • Arrangement: lists the hierarchical order of the collection as it has been arranged in the archive.
  • Box and folder list: details the box and/or folder numbers of the collection and their contents.

Knowing these essential parts of a finding aid can help you decide if a collection is relevant and which boxes or folders to request when onsite. It is important to note that access policies vary by institution and by collection, so you should make sure you are able to access a collection before visiting the institution.

This is an example of a typical finding aid.

For further guidance on finding aids, see San Diego State University’s online tutorial on using finding aids.

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Library Services and Publications

All students, faculty, and researchers also have access to a number of important library services and publications provided to support and facilitate research and study in their particular programs and disciplines.

Ask a Librarian a Question – To explore a variety of kinds of research support: enlist basic library assistance via our 24/7 online chat service; submit an email reference query to librarians onsite; request a research consultation with a Gottesman librarian; review frequently asked questions via the library’s Knowledge Database.

Request Materials – Request any materials (books, book chapters, journal articles, etc.)  that are not available through the Gottesman or Columbia University Libraries. The library will either get this material for you via inter-library loan or, more commonly, purchase it for the library collection.

Learning at the Library – The Gottesman Libraries’ blog via the Pressible platform, including content in many topical areas contributed by library staff members.

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