by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery
History is only made boring by text books. There, I said it. They’ve become so absent of feeling, emotion, or relatability that they become a students’ least liked subject. When I think about history, I find that using anything that can add a human element to a subject is makes it instantly more engaging. But, having access to and ease of exploration of these human elements have always been a struggle for me. Field trips are not always the most practical and my knowledge of art history is somewhat limited. All of that changed when I stumbled across the Google Cultural Institute. With over 6,000,000 photos and artifacts, you have access to the collections of over 1,000 museums.
Museums and curators have already collated and curated exhibits taking photographs, paintings, and letters from various sources into one place. It provides a perfect place to
start your research on certain topics, and it even points you to the sources of those pieces. Students explore digital images and can research using the Google Cultural Institute.
The Explore feature is fantastic, allowing you to look up virtually any item. Search the name of a person, an artifact, or a specific event and you’re ready to go. Yet, with so many artifacts, I really wanted to highlight a few that I find most useful. Historic Moments is a collection of curated images, sites, artwork, landmarks and other relevant information. When searching for supplements for a unit on the Civil War, I can quickly find six different galleries from around the globe, street view maps of the Ford Theatre, and images of artifacts from the time. Each of these images is a great resource, linked for further exploration. In history, I find this especially useful when asking my students to cite primary sources. Since these are oftentimes letters and other written documents, the links will take them to the museum link that will have the artifact transcribed (imagine trying to translate old english/handwriting). The descriptions that accompany the image will often add the context that helps make each item more relevant.
The World Wonders is another great aspect of the Google Cultural Institute. Archaeological areas are brought to life, displaying the wonders of the modern and ancient world to anywhere. Using the Street View, Google has made world heritage sites available to users across the globe. In addition, multiple resources are available as well, adding to the depth of possible exploration.