Local Students Learn to Research with Historical Magazines at Main Library

We love it when hands-on research helps our local students learn at CALS!

Students from Pulaski Heights Middle School visited the CALS Main Library this month to research their projects for National History Day. Our magazines, newspapers, history books, databases, and even microfilm make wonderful academic resources  to expand student research beyond the boundaries of school libraries.

History teacher Janet Buford believes the library’s resources offer the students a unique learning opportunity. “It’s best when they can get their information from sources that are not all online: printed paper magazines, microfilm, and others. That approach helps them to get more specific sources, and also teaches them more about what kinds of resources are out there.”

Historical sources show everyday life in previous decades

Mary Moore of CALS Information Services believes students find the collection very helpful for their projects. “The students have access to hundreds of national magazines and newspapers through the back issues (paper copies) of national magazines, and they also can find more on microfilm,” Moore says. “Some magazines like Life and Look are in our stacks and go back one hundred years or more. The magazines can be used as primary sources, and though they can’t be checked out, they can be photocopied for later use at school.”

The benefits of in-person exposure to primary sources become clear the minute students see examples of the old covers and articles in magazines like Life.

Covers capture the grief of war, effervescence of the Roaring ’20s

The cover below from May 1919 depicts a woman in classical garb carving on a memorial the dates for all of the major wars in which large numbers of Americans had died. The caption says “History Repeats Itself,” and the epitaph on the marble states, “They Gave Their Lives That Democracy Not Perish.”  The artists of yesteryear had a knack for painting and drawing the emotional content of the news in a way that can be rare today, when photography dominates our news and commentary. This cover image brings home to students the reality of a nation still in deep mourning for all the lives lost in World War I.

Like this 1919 issue, the pages of each historical magazine or newspaper are stamped indelibly by the most important and moving issues of the time. Sometimes the mood of a certain period was lighter-hearted, as in the Christmas cover from the late 1920s that features a stylish flapper with bobbed hair. And everyday details from advertisements and cartoons make it clear to students that life in previous decades had many parallels to our own time, and people of the past were much like today’s Americans despite their differences in clothing or hairstyles.

If your students would benefit from a research trip to CALS, please contact Raleigh Peterson at (501) 918-3000. We welcome our student visitors, and our library staff is happy to assist them!

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