Publication Date

April 11, 2011



National Archives - Presidential Libraries on YouTubeAmidst the amateur singers, pets riding on Roombas, and other silliness on YouTube, there is also a large amount of primary source video that history teachers can use in the classroom.

Historian and teacher Jonathan Rees knows this, and uses YouTube clips regularly in his lesson plans. He’s even written two articles for Perspectives on History, one in 2008 and another in the most recent issue, detailing how other teachers can do the same.

But where does one find historic footage that would be useful in the classroom? While much is uploaded by individual users, you can also check out YouTube channels of government agencies, the National Archives, and what we’re looking at today: Presidential Libraries.

The National Archives links to eight presidential libraries with channels on YouTube, where you can find speeches, interviews, documentaries, and more, they include the libraries of:

As a sample of what you can expect, below we present three videos from three presidential libraries on YouTube.

The Plow That Broke the Plains
In his first article in Perspectives on History about teaching with YouTube, Jonathan Rees wrote about showing this 1937 government documentary, which he used to teach his students about the Dust Bowl. You can find it on YouTube from a number of sources, including the YouTube page of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.


Kennedy-Nixon First Presidential Debate, 1960
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s YouTube Page contains dozens of videos, including this recording of JFK’s first presidential Debate with Richard Nixon.


Inside the Vaults – The Writing of Eisenhower’s “Military-Industrial Complex” Speech
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library expands on simple raw footage. To examine the famous “Military-Industrial Complex” speech on their YouTube page they’ve stitched together film of the speech with recent interviews with historians, and documents showing how the creation of the speech progressed.


On his blog, Jonathan Rees asks readers what YouTube clips they use in the classroom. Do you use YouTube videos in the classroom? If so, let him know, and feel free to let us know too. Contribute your thoughts on YouTube in the classroom here in the comments below too.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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