On January 27, 2021, the Newberry’s Manager of Teacher and Student Programs, Dr. Kara Johnson, kicked off the Behind-the-Scenes Speaker Series, a new opportunity for Newberry supporters to meet our staff and stay updated on the latest from the library. Dr. Johnson gave donors an in-depth look at the department’s premier digital resource, Digital Collections for the Classroom.
Also known as DCCs, these digital resources combine high-resolution images of primary source materials with contextual essays, discussion questions, and other classroom curricula. The website has operated for almost a decade, with new collections added each year. Today, more than one hundred DCCs are available to use, free of charge.
These collections cover a range of topics as diverse as the Newberry’s physical collections, from the Crusades to the exploration of the poles to modernism in 20th-century Chicago.
“I see the DCCs as a door that opens into a lot of other ways to engage with the Newberry,” says Dr. Johnson. She adds that over the past twelve months, the DCCs have taken center stage in helping educators adjust to remote learning. On average, 100,000 unique users visit the website each year. From March to December 2020, during the pandemic, 160,000 unique users visited the site 263,000 times.
“I cannot praise Digital Collections for the Classroom highly enough!” says Claudia Swan, Associate Professor of Art History at Northwestern University. “Since incorporating the Digital Collections for the Classroom into a course I taught in spring 2020, I haven’t stopped advertising this extraordinary scholarly and pedagogic resource to colleagues, students, and friends. In scope and depth, each of these brief essays is just right.”
For those new to the website, Dr. Johnson recommends “Chicago and the Great Migration, 1915-1950.” This collection exemplifies the variety of types of items spotlighted in the DCCs—poems, maps, photographs, newspapers, travel guides, governmental reports, and more. “That’s something that’s really unique to this project,” says Dr. Johnson. “Not everything on the Great Migration is found in one place in the library. But the DCCs allow us to collate a lot of different kinds of material under this umbrella of a topic.”
She also recommends “Art of Conflict: Portraying American Indians, 1850-1900,” a collection developed in 2014. Not only does this DCC center the Newberry’s important American Indian and Indigenous Studies collection, it also includes prepared lesson materials that educators can immediately put to use in the classroom. One such activity encourages students to consider how the messages conveyed in a piece of artwork differ based on its creator. “Whose perspective is represented in this drawing?” the activity asks. “Why is this important for the viewer to know?”
For Valerie Person, a high school teacher who uses the DCC on the 1919 Chicago race riots in her English language arts class, the DCCs offer an opportunity not only to help her students understand historical events, but also to connect with the people who lived through those events.
“It’s very easy to get caught up with the data, the numbers,” Person says. “But what we worked hard on is recognizing the individual names and the stories behind them.” She describes overhearing students commenting to each other with remarks like, “Writing their names, that is humanizing them. These are human beings.”
This is the type of education that you support when you give to the Newberry. “Our digital collections are a way for us to continue to broaden the reach of the library and to be a steady presence for students and teachers, regardless of where they are,” explains Dr. Johnson. “Thank you for helping us make these resources possible.”
Interested in learning more about Teacher and Student Programs at the Newberry? Use the links below to keep exploring.
— Visit the Teacher and Student Programs homepage to learn about the department’s other digital resources, professional development opportunities for teachers, and opportunities for students.
— Dr. Johnson’s talk was the first in the Behind-the-Scenes Speaker Series. Click here to register for the second installment of the series.
Digital Collections for the Classroom is generously funded by the Grainger Foundation. Additional funding has been provided by the Mellon Foundation, National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution – Chicago Chapter, and Terra Foundation for American Art.
This story is part of the Newberry’s Donor Digest, Winter 2021. In this newsletter the Newberry shares with its donors exciting stories of the success and innovation made possible by their generosity. Learn more about supporting the library and its programs.