Archives in the Classroom

The VHEC's collection of archival records offers educators a rich resource for engaging students with primary sources of historical evidence. Innovative tools have been incorporated into the collections database to allow students to work with digitized archival materials directly from the classroom. Discovery kits provide students with the opportunity to engage with reproductions of primary source documents and artefacts, such as letters, diaries, newspaper articles, photographs, identification cards and government documents. Educators are encouraged to review the About the Archives and Finding Aid sections to familiarize themselves with the archival collection. 


Worksheets for Students
The VHEC has developed worksheets designed to promote inquiry, inference and reflection using the archival collection as a resource for students as they work with primary sources. Students may choose from among hundreds of primary source documents, artefacts and photographs. Guiding questions in the worksheets will assist the student to place the primary source in historical context and make inferences to deepen their understanding of historic events. 

Click to print worksheets or download a PDF: 
Worksheets for analysing artefacts and autobiographical texts are available here.

Working with Catalogue Records
Archival items are described individually in catalogue records along with digitized reproductions of the item. Aggregations of the records can be explored by browsing Finding Aids. These catalogue records make it possible for students to independently investigate the creation, ownership, appearance, use and history of archival material in the VHEC's holdings. This helps students place materials in their historical context and discover for themselves the unique Holocaust story they represent. 

Linking to Related Items in the Collection
The catalogue record for each item includes links to other items in the collection with the same subject matter (called "access points"). Catalogue records also contain links to "related holdings" arranged by place, event, people and organization. Exploring links to related items gives students the opportunity to compare how different sources of evidence speak to common themes, historic events, people and/or places. 

Browsing the Collection
Users can browse items in the archival collection and filter results by subject, resource type, creation date, person, place, genre, language and others to explore items relevant to their topic of study. This feature allows students to engage with primary source materials according to their interests and learning contexts. Users can navigate to the parent collection-level record from these items to learn more about their context. Alternately, aggregations of the records can be explored by browsing the Finding Aids section of the website.

Lightbox is a tool within the collections database that allows users to create, manage and share a customized selection of items from the catalogue. Students can save selected items from their search or browse results to their lightbox in order to create their own collection to include in a classroom presentation, lesson plan, assignment or group project. Once a lightbox collection has been created, items can be added, organized, filtered and annotated, and can be viewed on an interactive timeline. View the User Guide for more instructions about how to use lightboxes.
  • Presenting with Lightbox: Lightbox collections can be presented in the classroom as a web-based slideshow. Users can organize items in their lightbox by dragging and dropping to determine the order in which items appear in a slideshow presentation.
  • Creating an Interactive Timeline with Lightbox: Items in a lightbox can be viewed on an interactive timeline based on their creation date. The timeline function is accessed within a lightbox collection by clicking on the clock icon at the top right corner of the screen. Users can navigate the timeline by clicking the arrows on the screen. Clicking on an item’s title will show the full catalogue record for that item.
  • Creating a Shared Digital Workspace with Lightbox: Lightbox can be used to create a shared digital workspace in the classroom. Users can annotate items in their lightbox with comments or questions and can grant access to other users via the “Share the Lightbox” function. In this way, teachers can create and share lightbox assignments with students using the annotation feature to pose questions or direct the students’ inquiry into a collection of items. Similarly, students can respond to questions or share observations through the annotation/comments within the lightbox. Creating a shared digital lightbox workspace also enables students to collaborate with each other on joint projects or presentations. 
  • Mapping Archival Items with Lightbox: Archival items in a lightbox collection can also be viewed on an interactive world map if the items are associated with a geographical location. The mapping function can be accessed within a lightbox collection by clicking the globe icon at the top right corner of the screen. Clicking on a map's red location markers will display a link to the full catalogue record for that item.   

Curricular Links
Student interaction with primary sources is an essential component in the development of historical thinking skills and leads to a deeper understanding of the past. Teachers can use the tools and resources provided in the collections database to advance the core competencies in the British Columbia curriculum
  • Creative & Critical Thinking: Students develop cognitive and analytical thinking skills through critically observing, questioning, analyzing and interpreting primary source materials. Students use deductive reasoning skills to draw inferences, form conclusions based on the evidence they uncover and construct knowledge by integrating information they have acquired from other sources.  
  • Communication: Students independently acquire, apply, interpret and present information using the digital technology of the collections database. The website's online tools also promote collaboration among students through the use of shared digital media and workspaces. 
  • Personal and Social Competency: Students reflect upon personal and cultural identity and social responsibility as they discover the first-hand historical accounts revealed by the primary source materials in the collections. Students are encouraged to see diverse perspectives of past events when they encounter a variety of sources of historical information.  
Many of the key emphases of the curriculum are also supported, including: 
  • Inquiry-based, personalized learning and deeper learning processes: Students actively participate in the process of historical inquiry when they question, uncover evidence and construct meaning from primary sources. The website allows students to explore topics of interest to them, seek further information and direct their own learning by linking to related people, places, events and subject matters across the VHEC's collections. 
  • Digital literacy: The online tools and resources of the collections database give students the opportunity to enhance their digital literacy skills, develop user generated content and co-construct meaning as it relates to digital and online technologies. 
  • Diverse learning styles: Primary sources in the collections can be experienced in a variety of mediums (e.g. oral histories, three-dimensional objects, artworks, graphic representations, photographs and documents) to accommodate diverse learning styles.