Using DPLA’s Primary Source Sets

Interested in using DPLA and the Primary Source Sets for education, but not sure where to start? Use this guide to learn about the project and strategies for classroom implementation.

What are the Primary Source Sets?
Navigating the sets
Tutorial Video: Introduction to DPLA’s Primary Source Sets
Using the Primary Source Sets
Tutorial Video: Implementation Ideas
Searching DPLA
Tutorial Video: Strategies for Searching in DPLA
Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Primary Source Sets?

  • 140 “highlight reel” primary source collections
    Each set includes ten to fifteen sources and a teaching guide
  • By educators, for educators and students
    Created by DPLA’s Education Advisory Committee and designed for both instructors and students.
  • For secondary and higher education
    The sets are adaptable across grade levels, learning styles, and classroom environments, from middle school to higher education

Finding a set
Use the subject and time period filters to narrow the sets to topics of interest. Use the sort feature to view topics chronologically.

Main page
The main page of each set includes a topic overview and ten to fifteen sources with thumbnail images and captions. Use the “Share to Google Classroom” link for easy classroom integration.

Source page
View each digitized source in a zoomable viewer or media player. Each source has a custom caption and additional description, transcription, and translation as needed. Find citation information and analysis prompts on the right

Teaching guide
Use the discussion questions and suggested classroom activities to spark inspiration for ways the sources can be used to support student inquiry and critical thinking.

Tutorial Video: Introduction to DPLA’s Primary Source Sets

Using the Primary Source Sets

Try one of these implementation ideas or create your own!

What’s missing?
There is always room for new ideas or perspectives on a topic! Students can critically examine the sources in a set and identify an item from DPLA that they would add to that set. Students can also generate new discussion questions to add to the set’s teaching guide using the sources.

Gamify the sets
Use sources from the sets to create an educational game or challenge for students. For example, build a Digital Breakout in which answers to each question can be uncovered through primary source analysis.

Storytelling with sources
Ask students to generate a narrative using a set of sources from the sets as evidence. Follow up with a class discussion comparing the ways each student or group used the sources.

Find more implementation ideas in our blog post, “10 Ways to Use the Primary Source Sets in Your Classroom” or watch the recording of our webinar, “Using DPLA to Teach with Primary Sources.”

Tutorial Video: Implementation Ideas

Education Advisory Committee member Jamie Lathan introduces and models implementation ideas using materials from the Primary Source Sets.

Searching DPLA

If the perfect resource is not in the Primary Source Sets, try searching DPLA’s full collections. With millions of items drawn from thousands of libraries, archives, and museums, DPLA has a wealth of resources on nearly any topic. Use these search tips and tools to help navigate DPLA’s vast content.

Tutorial Video: Strategies for Searching in DPLA

In this video, Education Advisory Committee Member Cate Denial shares strategies, tips, and tools for DPLA searching success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do students or schools have to subscribe, login, or pay?
Nope! All of DPLA’s collections and resources are freely available to all – no login or subscription required.

Are the Primary Source Sets aligned to state or national standards?
The sets are designed to be adaptable across grade levels and a broad range of classroom environments so we did not explicitly align them to specific state or national standards. We did use curriculum guidelines as a reference when selecting topics to make sure the sets reflect commonly-taught topics and skills.

Are the Primary Source Sets Open Educational Resources?
The Primary Source Sets are Open Educational Resources (OER) in that they are freely available for educators and students to use, reuse, and adapt for educational purposes. The sets are made available under the CC BY 3.0 License. However, not all of the individual items within the sets are copyright-free and may have restrictions for downloading, sharing, or publishing elsewhere.

Are the Primary Source Sets printable?
The sets are designed to be used online, so the source pages are not formatted for printing. Each set’s teaching guide can be easily printed using the “Print this Guide” link.

Can the Primary Source Sets be used for National History Day projects?Absolutely! Visit our National History Day page for suggested sets and resources that align with this year’s National History Day theme.

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The tutorials on this page and the professional development research and workshops that informed their development were completed with support from the Teagle Foundation.