The Living New Deal | Still Working for America

Archival site is a treasure trove for New Deal researchers

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Subjects & Skills

Social Studies

Price: Free
Platforms: Web

Pros: Tons of easy-to-search-for primary source material; users can submit info for the site.

Cons: Classroom-specific resources are sparse.

Bottom Line: While it doesn't offer much specifically for teachers or students, it's a must-use site for primary source material if you have a unit on the New Deal or Great Depression.

The Living New Deal can be a valuable research resource on the New Deal. For classes studying the Great Depression and the New Deal, students will find essential information about the period, the people, and the actions taken during the FDR presidency to end a major economic and social crisis. The site's archives and maps showing the massive reach of the programs adopted under the New Deal are excellent sources for students.

Since there's no introduction to the Living New Deal for students, teachers will want to spend some time combing through the copious resources and setting up an introductory tour for students to get them familiar with the site -- highlights might include the project browsing experience, programs database, and timeline. After, it could be useful to show students the New Deal sites closest to their school. After that, this is a resource students can use to find primary source material for a research project.

If you're looking to take things even further, check out the Resources section for tons of extension material, including films, books, and oral histories that can deepen students' understanding of the New Deal's impact. Finally, note that Living New Deal allows user contributions (under the New Deal Sites menu item). A classroom might do some local research to find sites not listed on Living New Deal and then work together to create an official entry to submit.

The Living New Deal is an archival website hosting a map of New Deal projects as well as a collection of related resources that range from a listing of all the New Deal programs to related media like books, films, and other websites to a timeline of historical events.

The site has two main functions for teachers or students. First, it provides an overview of the major initiatives of the federal government's response to the Great Depression. There are easy-to-understand summaries about the different agencies created under the New Deal, brief bios of important figures from the period, and a timeline of key events in the Depression. It includes many links to additional sources of information (both primary and secondary) about the New Deal as well. Second, and most valuable to learners, is the huge trove of primary source documents about the New Deal. The creators of the site set out to document the enduring legacy of the New Deal: the buildings, art, infrastructure, and conservation projects funded by federal government agencies in an effort to combat poverty and put the country back to work during the Depression. Currently, the site has documented more than 13,500 projects throughout the country. Students and teachers can search by type, by location (state and city), or even by the agency responsible. Films and photographs from the era are another primary source for understanding the period. 

The site is open to contributions from people across the United States -- an intriguing opportunity for classes studying U.S. history. Identifying and documenting local New Deal projects would allow students to become citizen historians contributing to a living history project with a large audience. 

While there's not much offered that explicitly supports student learning or helps teachers implement the site, the Living New Deal is a very useful archive and research destination. Teachers and students will find the site's resources especially great for contextualizing and bringing to life the federal government's response to the Great Depression, a topic that's increasingly relevant in light of the 2008 recession and subsequent global crises. The map-based navigation also allows students to see the local impact of the New Deal programs.

While there's tons of information -- from overviews of the federal agencies that orchestrated New Deal projects to individuals involved to a timeline of events -- it's not designed or presented in a way that's engaging for students. Teachers will need to put in work guiding students through the resources, contextualizing them, and designing projects that provide students with a way to make use of the site. With that as a driving force, students will likely enjoy finding nuggets of primary source material they can use. 

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Overall Rating

Since it's just an archive, students' engagement will vary depending on what brings them to the site. The map-based navigation helps, and if students are researching, they'll find it useful and illuminating.


It's not designed to teachbut instead to document. The archival material is thorough and well curated; however, it could be made more accessible to students.


There's no help, implementation resources, or accessibility options; however, students will find it easy enough with a teacher-led introduction. Check the Resources sections for tons of extension opportunities. 

Common Sense reviewer
James Denby
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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