School of Information Management & Systems

Michael Buckland,   Professor.

 Cultural Heritage Resources for K-12: An Example

Prepared by Linda Cathryn Everstz, October 7, 1998.

Cultural heritage resources are particularly for tailoring to meet classroom demographics, to supplement social science and history curricula in grades K-12. Cultural heritage resources are appropriate because of the importance of students' sense of identity and self-esteem, because both districts are multicultural, because cultural heritage materials open up special pedagogical opportunities for student insights into issues of language use, representation, and how heritages are reaffirmed and influenced. It is a good material for developing not only factual knowledge, but also critical thinking and tolerance. In these days of politics of identity, opening up discussion of the representation of cultural heritage is highly pertinent to contemporary civics.

Here's how the workshops/collaborations could begin:

1. Meet with teachers in specific grade levels to discuss critical aspects of subject goals, available materials and what they perceive the needs of their students to be (for example, for a pred. newcomer population, issues of immigration might be one way of exploring critical analysis skills--see example below).

2. On building teacher-to-teacher networks: Help teachers explore possibilities of different search engines and various search techniques and parameters.

3. Once a core of sites has been found -- pooling from all teachers involved -- teachers would critique these according to a teacher-developed checklist of needs. One such could be:

a. Does site offer necessary factual knowledge?--Is it content based or is it user-based (difference between say a site like CHICO or the GRADES site.

b. Does site offer examples of how material might be used?--K-12 orientation vs. general cultural information site.

c. Is site grade appropriate--might be important to teachers but could children work with it well?

d. Are links usable/whole? Is there a rich structure of other inks built in?--If not, what would they like to see? Do these links inspire further ideas about other net exploration--extrapolations?

e. How might teachers use teacher-identified sites in conjunction?--Building of new links between sites that might otherwise not be referential to one another based on teacher criteria, which could be basis for developing a new teacher-oriented website drawing on existing sites.

This sort of teacher-developed checklist would then help form the core of analysis of sites and how they are used in Year 2.

The following is but one illustration of how this proposal would help identify cultural heritages material that would support present social studies standards.

Historical and Social Science Analysis Skills: Grades 9-12

Immigration trends: Primary links: The Tenement Museum of New York and Ellis Island

One of the key issues for California teachers is harnessing the cultural diversity of its immigrant population and making the immigrant experience a source of rich historical and social analysis. Many comparisons have been drawn between the recent of second wave of immigration trends of the later part of this century in the Pacific North and Southwest to the first wave of immigrant at the turn of the century on the East Coast and eastern seaboard.

The Internet offers teachers in California a unique opportunity to explore the nature of immigration within a comparison historical. Through exploration of how the east and west coasts responded to immigration, and how the nature of immigration has changed due to political, technological, social, cultural and linguistic factors investigating the nature of the imperatives that drove newcomers to seek out a new life in the United States, exploring the social, cultural, and linguistic heritage of immigrant groups, States, exploring the social, cultural, and linguistic heritage of immigrant groups.

Both sites offer primary and secondary resource links to additional information on specific immigrant groups.

Chronological and Spatial Thinking

The Tenement Museum and Ellis Island are New York-based cultural resources that integrate some of the best known research on early New York immigrants, their housing, economic and social conditions, and traces how changes in populations influenced the larger social and economic structure of early American urban settings.

These sites allows students to trace how political and economic conditions abroad led immigrant to seek out New York, sheds light onto the aspirations and hopes these immigrants brought with them and traces how early immigrant groups related to and paved the way for later newcomers, showing that social conditions changed for some at rates faster than for other immigrant g roups, and that the rate of assimilation often illustrated how languages, religion and home customs corresponded or were foreign to other immigrant groups, and that the rate of assimilation often illustrated how languages, religion and home customs corresponded or were foreign to new American immigrant communities.

A unique function of the tenement museum site is the student's ability to browse the tenement over a 45 year span (1870-1915), seeing how the physical architecture of home environments reflected changes in immigrant status and larger technological development (for example, through the introduction of sanitary facilities, the relationship of those who lived on the upper stories to those who lived on lower, and what this meant--usually lower more desirable). For many immigrant families piecework was brought home and worked on by family members of various ages.

The tenement museum therefore offers a rare opportunity to see inside the house of immigrants and see not merely how communities were built but also offers insight onto how particular home industries became areas of expertise for particular populations from which discussions about social stereotyping also raise (e.g. the home tailoring work of many Jewish immigrants and the raise of the Jewish dominated "rag trade").

Historical Research, Evidence, and Point of View

The Tenement Museum reconstruction is based on archaeological findings of 97 Orchard Street, on Manhattan's Lower East Side, which reconstructed, provide family portraits in each of the tenement apartments. The evolution of the project is outlined within the site, offering students an opportunity to see how primary sources and artifacts are constructed with the aid of research and secondary sources to form a "story" of one possible social history. Students might examine the language used to describe the inhabitants, their lifestyles and perceived role in New York society, for biases and stereotypes, contrasting assumptions with fact; explore the type of resources and expert opinions that went into forming the stories told in the site. The Ellis Island site might be one way of critiquing the validity of the tenement site using quantifiable statistical data, or first hand accounts of immigrant experiences from emigres of a similar background to those portrayed.

Historical Interpretation

Both sites allow for extrapolation to similar social, economic, and cultural situations for newcomers to California. Drawing on insights gained from initial discussion of immigration trends at the beginning of the century, teachers might identify specific ethnic/cultural groups and applying a similar historical-social analysis using California based websites on cultural heritage (California Heritage site link, other museum or cultural archives here--Oakland Library/Museum) as well as more broadly based geographical cultural heritage sites (CHICO, Internet Library).

The use of both the Tenement Museum as well as the Ellis Island websites speaks to our belief in building communities of learning that extending beyond California's borders, placing the uniqueness of the California immigrant experience within the larger context of broader American culture changes--in immigration, diversity and technological innovation--which unite California students with students, teachers, and learning communities assessable perhaps only through the distance broaching aspect of the internet.

The Tenement Museum:
CHICO: Cultural Heritage Initiative for Community Outreach University of Michigan School of Information.
Ellis Island
The Internet Public Library, University of Michigan School of Information.
California Heritage Collection, University Library, U. C. Berkeley
Undergraduate course Access to American Cultural Heritages

Go to Michael Buckland's home-page. or Information and Cultural Heritage page.