EuroClio continuously works to improve its innovative educational platform Historiana. To do so, it has been collaborating with Europeana in the creation of source collections. The aim of this collaboration is to guarantee to teachers across all Europe the possibility to have free access to historical content, learning activities and innovative digital tools. We are now working on many new collections focusing on the Renaissance, and on how the ideas of the Renaissance fed into different disciplines (painting but also sculpture, cartography, music, literature, architecture, philosophy, and science), across different countries.
Newly available is the collection “Medicine and Anatomy” that focuses on how Anatomy and Medicine evolved as the scientific method gained prominence during the Renaissance period. This collection gives an overview of some of the key ideas that influenced medical thought, as well as of all the important thinkers of that era. The main purpose of this source collection is to give students the possibility to explore and understand the changes throughout Europe of how people perceived medicine and the human body, as well as scientific advancements. Ultimately, it helps students to pose questions about progress and declines of the Renaissance period.
By Bridget Martin, History Teacher in Residence
As part of my residency at EuroClio, I attended the Annual Conference in Gdansk, Poland, where I presented a workshop entitled Photographic Sources: Bringing History to Life? : Using online tools to promote historical thinking. The workshop took place on the 7th of April and was attended by over 20 participants from all around the globe. The focus of the workshop was on the use of the Historiana website which provides teachers with a wealth of historical content, teaching and learning activities as well as a tool with which to build their own online activities for students.
Historical Content Available on Historiana
We began with an explanation of the Historiana website, an invaluable resource produced by, with and for history teachers which is freely available to all. In the area of Historical Content, Historiana provides teachers with a variety of resources:
- Comprehensive sets of content, sources and learning activities connected to ‘key moments’ such as WWI, WWII and the Cold War
- Thematic units such as ‘Changing Europe’ or ‘Silencing Citizens through Censorship’, and
- Numerous source collections curated by EuroClio staff, trainees and volunteers.
Many of the sources used are drawn from our partner, Europeana, an online portal which provides access to over 50 million digitised sources from thousands of European archives, libraries, museums and audio-visual collections as well as their own online collections and galleries.
For this workshop, we concentrated on The Visual Front source collection which provides many examples of official war photographs from various nations, all taken during the First World War. These sources were collected from the Imperial War Museums and, like all source collections on the Historiana website, assembled with contextual notes for use by teachers in the classroom.
The Visual Front source collection highlights the nature of official photography and its tendency to emphasise and deemphasise aspects of the war, often staging photographs for propagandistic purposes. This collection provided the perfect springboard for discussions of how to support students to question the assumption that photographs always capture things as they really were and encourage them to critically analyse photographs in the same way they would any other historical source. Participants took part in a rich discussion about the types of questions they would ask students to consider when presented with one of the photographs from the collection.
We also discussed the questions suggested by Cory Callahan who has drawn upon research by Sam Wineburg in which he identified three heuristics used by expert historians when reading textual sources: sourcing, contextualising and corroborating. Callahan suggests that when analysing photographs we could invite students to ask questions in the same areas, such as:
eLearning Activity Builder on Historiana
The second half of the workshop allowed participants to observe and test out Historiana’s eLearning Activity Builder. This tool allows teachers to create their own online learning activities to promote historical thinking using Historiana source collections as well as their own resources. Using different building blocks, teachers can:
- provide instructions
- create activities where students annotate, sort or prioritise sources
- ask questions, and
- receive student responses.
After looking at a few examples, participants worked in groups to create their own eLearning Activity focusing on the usefulness of photographic sources from The Visual Front collection. These activities were presented at the end of the session and ranged from tasks for assessing how realistic the photographs were, to those centred on considering the impact of the photographs as well as those which explored the representation of women and their roles in the collection. The range of activities developed in this short space of time provides an excellent example of the vast variety of activities that teachers can develop with this tool for use within their specific teaching contexts.
Cory Callahan. ‘Analyzing Historical Photographs to Promote Civic Competence.’ Social Studies Research and Practice 8, no. 1 (2013): 77-88.
Sam Wineburg. ‘Historical Problem Solving: A Study of the Cognitive Processes Used in the Evaluation of Documentary and Pictorial Evidence.’ Journal of Educational Psychology 83: 73-87.
This post has been written by Marissa Young, trainee at EuroClio.
On 11 March EuroClio provided a teacher training workshop at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands on “Women at Work: Analyzing and comparing visual sources from the Europeana Collections.”
The hour long workshop focused on demonstrating to participants how Europeana source collections on Historiana—specifically the Women Working source collection—could be used in the Historiana eActivity Builder to help students critically analyze visual sources. The workshop was generously hosted by Dr. Tim Huijgen, professor of History education at the University of Groningen. Participants were trainee teachers enrolled in master’s level education studies at the University of Groningen and all were working part-time as history teachers at local schools.
The workshop began with an introduction by Steven Stegers (EuroClio), who shared background information on Europeana and Historiana with the participants. He introduced the trainee teachers to the basic functions of Historiana.
Following Steven, I led an exploration on using the “Women Working” source collection. The source collection was built as an eLearning Activity to help guide students’ analytical and critical viewing skills to help answer historical enquiry questions. Such as, “what can representations of washerwomen tell us about how this profession was viewed by the rest of society?” or “How do representations of women medical practitioners differ between cultures?”
Why Women Working?
When asked to create a Europeana source collection for this workshop, I was inspired to focus on representations of women for two reasons. One, a personal interest in women’s history and two, due to the relevance of March as Women’s history month.
As I browsed through Europeana looking for visual sources of women I was struck by the number of sources showing women washing clothes, grinding grain, weaving cloth, hulling coal, healing others, and producing goods all across different cultures. These images offered a different interpretation of women workers than the now popular celebration of women entering the workforce as a result of wartime labor shortages. These images showed that women throughout history, and across cultures, had a more diverse profile of work than often acknowledged.
While curating this collection, my criteria for selecting sources was that they had to show women actively engaged in doing work, and that the work was not dependent upon a grand moment in history. Resulting images show the everyday experiences of women.
What caught my attention, when looking at the complete collection, was that women’s work usually had social component represented. Women did their work with others, mostly other women. In many of these sources there is a sense of community, collaboration or assistance among the women. Does this social element represent the actual conditions of women’s work? Or do these sources serve to further the stereotype that women are the social gender?
There is much to explore in this collection, which is why we felt it would make for an interesting workshop on analyzing and comparing sources.
Analyzing representation in visual sources
During the workshop I reviewed the concept of representation with the participants. Representation is the production of meaning of concepts within a culture. One participant gave the example that teachers are usually represented as standing in front of a board, wearing glasses, and probably holding an apple. When we see the board, glasses and apple and we recognize this person represents a teacher.
Representation is a process we constantly engage in, yet do not t usually stop to consider. However, taking the time to contemplate representation in an image can help students learn how to analyze and discuss visual sources critically. A great tool for teaching students to view sources critically is the Analyze tool in the eActivity Builder.
As we demonstrated during the workshop, you can use the Analyze tool to have students annotate visual sources to help them articulate the process of visual source analysis. A good annotation of a visual source has two components: a description and a meaning. For example:
The tree is arched over and all the leaves are pointing in one direction (description) which indicates this landscape is windy (meaning).
Participants were asked to assume the role of students and make at least three annotations on three images of washerwomen using the annotate feature in the eLearning Activity. Participants discovered how this simple tool can be used to help structure students’ process of visual source analysis and prepare them to answer historical enquiry questions with reasonable and justified evidence.
EuroClio and the Historiana Historical Content Team will come together in Brussels to define the first steps in the implementation of the 4th phase of the Digital Services Infrastructure (DSI4) project, led by Europeana Foundation. They will set the priorities and the next steps of their collaboration, in particular defining the future work on the implementation of the DSI4 project. They will brainstorm together on possible topics for future source collections.