Primary Source Investigation for History Students

As a way to both teach historical thinking/primary source skills as well as get more people to see and think about these artifacts, I developed a primary source investigation.  This has already been distributed and well-received by history teachers.  


  1. Find a photo of a location you recognize and/or are familiar with.  (Skill: cause and effect/synthesis)
    1. How is it different now?
    2. How is it similar now?  
    3. What may account for those similarities/differences?
  2. Find a photo with the year indicated. (Skill: contextualization)
    1. What was going on in the area/country/world at the time?
    2. How might the area depicted be affected by these events?
  3. Everything is an argument.  Find any photo.  (Skill: identifying POV and purpose)
    1. Who is the ‘speaker?’
    2. What is the ‘speaker’s’ purpose?
    3. How does (s)he achieve this purpose?  
  4. Choose an interview with audio.  Listen all the way through.  (Skill: identifying tone/argument)
    1. What is the tone of the person being interviewed?
    2. How can you tell?
    3. What is the main argument of the speaker?
    4. What events in this person’s life might contribute to his/her attitude?  

Sharing with the community!

In order to share with my school community, I chose to display the photos in our school media/student center.  Because many of the students are from Branchville and Frankford, those are the photos I selected to reprint from the digital scans and display for the school.  

Searching metadata to correctly label all photos
labeling the reprinted photos with location and year
the finished display
the display in the center of the library for students to view


High Point Regional High School has a Social Studies National Honor Society, the Robert Siragusa chapter of Rho Kappa.  The organization was looking for an opportunity to serve the community in a way that involved the social studies, so I asked them to find more lifelong residents of the county and send me their interviews to publish them here.  

I am very grateful for thier willingness to help out.  

Scanning Photos

I scanned a lot of historical photos for this project.  Mr. Wayne McCabe was super helpful in letting me come in to his office and scan his collection for hours at a time.  

I used a flat photo bed scanner, and the best method I found was to set four at a time on the scanner, scan the photos, then replace the photos and start again.  While waiting for the next four to upload, I went through the last batch and saved them to a drive, naming them with as much detail as was available.

One of the most important parts of the file naming was including the year.  This was mostly possible because of the inked date stamp on each postcard (because that is mostly what they were), but a postcard may be sent even years after publishing and photographing.  Because of this, most of the dates are mostly guessed a little in the file name.  



The inspiration for this project came from a lot of sources, but mostly from my own research of m family’s history.  My family, for many generations on some lines, comes from Sussex County.  I discovered the rich history of the County through that and wanted the people around me to also see how amazing, historic, and beautiful this place is.  I wanted others to feel the pride that I did in being from Sussex County.  

So, amazingly, I met Mr. McCabe, a local historian who was willing to share his photos with me to digitize and share with others.  

That is where this journey begins…