Lesson Plans: Researching Community History


Libraries and archives provide access to an incredible amount of resources to help us better understand historical context of events, topics, people, and more. However, it almost seems as though you have to have prior knowledge (or privilege) of how to navigate these spaces in order to conduct research. In this workshop, we will review the kinds of topics that can be researched, where to conduct certain types of research, and discuss barriers to access. I am very interested in hearing from attendees to help folks feel empowered to perform community research. It is recommended that attendees bring their public library cards, or sign up for one if possible.

*It is recommended that the workshop facilitator not reuse my description word-for-word, but rather craft their own.

Details about this lesson plan:

  • Designed to be roughly ~1.5 hours
  • Slideshow with introduction to research, followed by active learning activity
  • Intended audience is undergraduate or graduate students, and the general public
  • Should be customized to course after meeting with the professor or event organizers

Proposed Session Schedule:

  • Welcome / Opening Activity (Optional)15 minutes
    • Section 1 of a white board wall: Write a word or words that describe your feelings or what you think about Baltimore.
    • Write a word or words you’ve heard someone related to you or a close friend who does not live here has used to describe Baltimore.
    • The purpose of this activity is to reveal biases as well as inform students that they are primary sources on Baltimore (where they live).
  • Short discussion: You do research already, even if you don’t think you do. Where do you start? What tools do you use? – 5 minutes
  • Slides: Introduction to research (see below) – 10 minutes
  • Group activity: Teams find primary resources online (see below) – 40 minutes (20 minutes to look at websites, 20 minutes to report back to the group).
  • Final thoughts – 15 minutes


Please note that these slides are the abbreviated version. If you’d like me to present the complete version, please get in touch using the form toward the bottom of this page. 

Activity Worksheets: Finding Primary Resources Online

Split the class into groups of 2-4, depending on class size. Assign each team an institution. The teams will report back to the entire group at the end of the session. Below are two examples of worksheets.

It is highly recommended that the workshop leader develop their own worksheets/questions. Websites change frequently, so the questions on the worksheet might be outdated.

Researching Community History – Library of Congress

Researching Community History – Internet Archive

Cheat Sheet – Resources for Researching Community History (Baltimore City)

It is recommended that the workshop leader customize their own cheat sheet for the topic of the workshop.

Resources for Researching Community History – Baltimore City

Want me to lead this workshop for your organization, event, or class? Get in touch!

I’ve led this workshop for community events in Baltimore City. Always excited about an opportunity to help folks learn more about research.

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