Website review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2015

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Stellar history website, gateway to cool PD and scholarship

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Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Social Studies, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking, Communication & Collaboration

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5 images

Pros: Tons of images, audio, and video bring primary source documents and expert perspectives to your classroom.

Cons: More accessibility features -- like better text-to-speech integration and video captions -- would improve usability for a broader range of users.

Bottom Line: In class, a good resource for U.S. history; beyond, a great website for free teacher PD and some great in-depth exploration of primary sources.

Take a moment to create an account so you can save some bookmarks. There's a ton of info here, and it'll be helpful to use this built-in feature to save what you find for later. Have your AP U.S. History students use this as a go-to reference for study and review, either in addition to your ongoing study or as a new resource for review in the weeks before the exam. Have your students browse and search the primary sources as inspiration for projects or as references for research papers; or choose your own selection of primary sources to create a rich document-based, question-style exam for your students. Consider requesting a traveling exhibit from the Institute or, better still, use the resources here to create your own multimedia museum exhibit. What story would your museum tell? What additional commentary would your students need to add?

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The Gilder Lehman Institute of American History's website is the online home of the independent cultural organization of the same name. The Institute's work focuses on collecting key artifacts from American history and sharing and interpreting those artifacts with students and teachers across the country. The site is divided into seven sections: History by Era (the main portal for exploring the Institute's historical content), Programs and Exhibitions (where teachers and students can apply for online and in-person educational experiences), Primary Sources (digitally browse the collection), History Now (the Institute's journal, with essays and videos from historians), Multimedia (with videos and audio files from historians and other experts), Community (where teachers and students can connect with others and save bookmarked resources), and About (where users can learn about the Institute's history, people, and mission).

Teachers and students can create a free account; this lets them bookmark favorite resources and join the Institute's online community to share content via social media, access the collection catalog, and create their own resource lists. Teachers can register for free to become an affiliate school, which offers additional access benefits and the option to host a traveling exhibition of Institute resources.

The best bets for teachers and students are in the History by Era, Programs and Exhibitions, and Primary Sources sections. Programs and Exhibitions includes an AP U.S. History study guide; it's organized into 10 time periods that each feature a timeline, primary source documents, videos, and essays. The Primary Sources section is also great: A reference guide and search features let users sort through images and videos to dive deeply into history. Those bookmarking and sharing features are great, too. This site's developers are helpfully self-aware about just how much info they've packed onto their website, and these saving features plus the intuitive, persistent navigation make it easy to get your bearings.

The best thing about this website is how well it brings primary source media into your classroom. That includes old-school documents plus videos, including everything from color illustrations of TR and Taft from Puck and the still-shocking "daisy" ad for LBJ's 1968 presidential campaign. There's excellent content plus expert context, making this a reliable, ultra-rich resource to boost understanding and engagement in your history classroom. Overall, there's a lot to explore, so give yourself -- and your students -- time to dive deep and revel in its riches.

Overall Rating


While adults might enjoy browsing here more than kids will, there's a wealth of info and great images that make for attractive, engaging history exploration.


Videos from experts, primary source multimedia, and great timelines make this a terrific resource for the history classroom. Teacher-led how-to videos help teachers make efficient use of the site's many resources.


Straightforward navigation plus tons of info to help teachers and students navigate the experience.

Common Sense reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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Featured review by
Todd B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Lancaster Mennonite School
Lancaster, United States
Densely packed with historical information, this site can help history become real for students.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute site is well-organized and contains many well-catalogued resources. Students at the middle school level might have a difficult time navigating the resources simply because there are so many available, but this should be no problem for teachers. If anyone is pursuing primary documents in nearly any historical genre, the resources are available. and accessible. A reliable and engaging source for documents, videos, and other interactive resources.
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