Although we may not live in California, and our particular museum’s may not tell a story related directly to Californian history, this resource was too good for me to not share.
As a brief part of the work I’m doing this summer, I was looking for some primary source documents from the 1849 Gold Rush, just something quick to plug in for more background and visual interest. So, off to google I went, and the first link that popped up was Calisphere.
My first reaction to this was, oh man, why don’t they have this for my state! This really shows every mark of being a fantastic resource. There are multiple ways of searching for the topic you’d like to explore, either through a normal search bar, browsing by topic, a couple of special collections including a virtual tour of local history, or through their drop down chronological menus.
Once you’ve searched your subject or event, it breaks it down into further categories. For instance, the Gold Rush is divided into Murder and Mayhem, Disasters, Everyday Life and People, Environmental Impact, Growth of Cities, and Diversity in the Changing State.
Click on any of these and you get a whole variety of primary source documents to play with. If you go through the teacher section, which I highly recommend, you get some background information, questions to consider, several pdf’s of how to look at primary source documents, and relevant California state standards. There are also photographs, advertisements, letters, all sorts of good stuff. And, while the content is heavy on the California history, it is not exclusive to it. I think anyone connecting their local story to a more national one, or who wants to talk about a subject that ties into California would find this to be a really great resource.