Publication Date

January 16, 2013

Hoover Inauguration, 1929, Image courtesy of National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress)

As the nation’s capital busily prepares for inaugural festivities on Monday, January 21, history teachers may be contemplating new ways to look back at inaugurations of the past. Why not start a discussion about the role of poetry in inauguration festivities by reading Robert Frost’s poem from John F. Kennedy’s inauguration? Or, try leading students through a popular digital exhibition of the First Ladies’ gowns and prompt students to look for intersections between the gowns they wore and the changing role of women in politics. These are but a few of the many interesting ways put forth for teachers by the NEH Inauguration resource portal in preparation for the 57th inauguration. The resources in the portal are the product of a joint venture by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the National Archives, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Resources to consider include:

  • A slideshow of program covers from Half a Century of Inaugural Images.
  • Explore the role that poetry has played on Inauguration Day by the Library of Congress’s Presidents as Poets page.
  • Images from George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and three other presidents’ inaugurations.
  • Video from Kennedy’s inauguration.
  • An online archive of presidential speeches, including some with audio.

EDSITEMENT has contributed lesson plans for a variety of age groups, including “Like Father, Like Son: Presidential Families” for K–2, “I Do Solemnly Swear” for grades 3–5, and “Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address” for grades 9–12. Although these lesson plans focus on the inauguration as subject matter, they also touch upon much larger historical themes including constitutional law, party politics, and even the Cold War. In addition, many of the lesson plans include exercises that ask students to interrogate primary sources and take a side on a constitutional issue.

In addition to the teaching resources, the NEH and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History are co-sponsoring a live event featuring the popular radio program Backstory with the American History Guys. The History Guys will discuss inaugural history and feature Smithsonian curator Harry Rubenstein, who will present objects from the national collection. The event, January 19 from 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m., is open to the public, but seating is limited.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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