The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Website review by
Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Media
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Website Poster Image
Stellar history resource offers great primary source access.

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The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about the particular historical objects and artifacts collected by the Institute. Though the information presented may appeal to older users, younger readers can appreciate the information and imagery that are shown on the site's pages. Readers can also explore and discuss the forces and perspectives that shaped American history at critical points. There are plenty of videos and other multimedia resources that provide a wealth of resources. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History delivers a broad interactive perspective on the events and issues that shaped America, with a presentation that should appeal to all visitors.

Positive Messages

Great images, resources, helpful text let kids access rare objects, get a sense of their larger context, understand history of country.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is the website of a nonprofit organization that promotes education and understanding about the history of the United States. In addition to extensive history information, parents and students can access information about professional development opportunities and writing contests. Kids are exposed to lots of imagery and artifacts from the more than 200-year history of our country and can get a richer understanding of what shaped America, without being exposed to inappropriate content.

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What's it about?

THE GILDER LEHRMAN INSTITUTE OF AMERICAN HISTORY's website is the online home of the independent cultural organization that focuses on collecting, sharing, and interpreting key artifacts from American history with students, teachers, and parents across the country. The site is divided into seven sections: History by Era (the main portal for exploring the Institute's historical content), Programs and Exhibitions (where parents and students can apply for online and in-person educational experiences), Primary Sources (where users can digitally browse the collection), History Now (the Institute's journal, with essays and videos from historians), Multimedia (with videos and audio files from historians and other experts), Community (where parents and students can connect with others and save bookmarked resources), and About (where users can learn about the Institute's history, people, and mission). Parents and students can create a free account; this lets them bookmark favorite resources and join the Institute's online community to share content via social media, access the collection catalog, and create their own resource lists. Teachers can register (for free) to become an affiliate school, which offers additional access benefits and the option to host a traveling exhibition of Institute resources.

Is it any good?

This interactive historical website provides a large amount of context into the events that shaped America. The best bets for parents and students are in the History by Era, Programs and Exhibitions, and Primary Sources sections. Programs and Exhibitions includes an AP U.S. History study guide; it's organized into 10 time periods that each feature a time line, primary source documents, videos, and essays. The Primary Sources section is also great: A reference guide and search features let users sort through images and videos to dive deeply into history. Its bookmarking and sharing features are great, too. This site's developers are helpfully self-aware about just how much information they've packed onto their website, and these saving features (plus the intuitive, persistent navigation) make it easy to get your bearings.

The best thing about this website is how well it brings primary source media to life. That includes old-school documents plus videos, including everything from color illustrations of Theodore Roosevelt and Taft from Puck and the still-shocking "daisy" ad for Lyndon B. Johnson's 1968 presidential campaign. There's excellent content plus expert context, making this a reliable, ultra-rich resource to boost understanding and engagement. The largest issue is that if you're not a history buff, you may only find yourself using this site once or twice before moving on; there's just so much content. Overall, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has a lot to explore, so give yourself time to dive deep and revel in its riches.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about history. If your child takes an AP U.S. History class, how can this best be used as a go-to reference for study?

  • Browse and search the primary sources as inspiration for projects or as references for research papers. Why are primary sources useful? How do they help us access and understand the past?

  • Use the resources here to create your own multimedia museum exhibit. Which story would your museum tell? What additional commentary would you need to add to tell your story?

Website details

  • Subjects: Language & Reading: reading comprehension, text analysis, using supporting evidence, writing clearly
    Social Studies: citizenship, cultural understanding, history, timelines
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, asking questions, memorization, thinking critically
    Self-Direction: academic development, self-assessment, self-reflection, work to achieve goals
  • Genre: Educational
  • Topics: History
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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