Picturing History

May 7th, 2009 in American History by Peter Culos

We’ve heard it before: a picture is worth a thousand words. Too often, kids are taught history with a litany of words, names and dates. Boring. As historians, we know that there is so much more to it than that. Give them pictures, and it just might get a little more inspiring!

That is exactly what the National Endowment for the Humanities means to do. Their program, Picturing America, brings high quality reproductions of some of the greatest American art into the nation’s schools and school libraries. In their own words, “Through this innovative program, students and citizens will gain a deeper appreciation of our country’s history and character through the study and understanding of art.” Now we’re talking (or seeing, actually)!

Teachers receive 40 classic works of art to display in their classroom to help teach not only history, but math and literature as well. The high quality image series comes complete with a Teachers Resources Book and program website chock full of information. Let’s take a look at Grant Wood’s folk art styled, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” painted in 1931. The online resource section for it includes such varied lesson plans as, “The Romantic Period, 1820-1860: Essayists and Poets,” “Not only Paul Revere: Other Riders of the American Revolution,” and “Why Do We Remember Revere? Paul Revere’s Ride in History and Literature.” Wood’s image has a dreamlike quality that’s part Disney cartoon, part surreal and part realism. It’s easy to see how it would fit all of these lesson plans.

Great American painters like Winslow Homer, John Singleton Copley and N.C. Wyeth are represented in the collection, but there’s more to it than that. Beautiful photos of ancient pottery, architecture, sculpture and photographs are also part of the collection.

As a budding artist and historian, I can vouch for the power of pictures in fueling my interest in history as a kid. The dramatic Civil War paintings of Tom Lovell certainly played a huge part in my fascination with that time period. After staring at them for hours, I just had to know the story behind the pictures.

Maybe Picturing America will inspire a new generation of budding historians.

Peter Culos is and artist/graphic designer as well as creator of history-geek.com

About the Author: Since my first trip to Gettysburg as a young boy, I've been captivated by History. I get it from my mom. Although she passed away when I was just 13, she still had an influence on me. All our family vacations were stitched around some historical site. So, history geeks are in my blood. I'm a graphic designer by profession and a semi-amateur painter. I love to explore history through my paintbrush. Currently, I work as a graphic artist for the US Army. I've also done living history to get a first hand feel for "what it was like". Looking at history through the eyes of the common man (or woman) and understanding the personal, human drama is really the spice that flavors the historical stew!

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5 Responses to “Picturing History”

  1. [...] Picturing History : Great History [...]

  2. Poppy said:

    Hello, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo. Your blog looks good. Have a nice day.

  3. Jaz Christopher said:

    Oh, that sounds like a lovely way to learn about history. I am sure, seeing the great American painters will make all the difference to the teaching experience. How can anyone not fail to be moved by such a direct link to our history? I would also like to add another site here named Shmoop for more reference on US history, which I personally use when teaching. It offers multiple perspectives to all historical events. There is music, video, audio, trivia, references to pop culture – basically everything you might need to get your kids hooked. Had to share it with you hear… hope it helps.

  4. Jaz, thanks for the link. The more the merrier!

  5. [...] Picturing History : Great History greathistory.com/picturing-history.htm – view page – cached Great History highlights the best and brightest history bloggers on the Internet today. We specialize in how history affects current events. — From the page [...]

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