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Digital Reproductions of Authentic Materials for Teaching Early American History: Opportunities and Challenges for Networking Multilingual Records and Historic Maps

Presenter 1
Laina Madeline W Padgett
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Traditionally, textbooks treating early American history have been written with Anglo-American biases. While many facts are irrefutable, certain socio-cultural perspectives have tainted the multicultural reality of American history. In conventional textbooks, initial English colonies are prominent, yet settlements established contemporaneously by the French and Spanish receive little attention. Growth of Britain's thirteen colonies is presented. However, Spanish development (Florida, Mexico) and French establishments (Canada, Mississippi, Gulf of Mexico) are hardly mentioned. After the American Revolution, the focus is on the nation's westward expansion, including the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark's Expedition. Yet germane facts remain neglected: Napoleon sold Louisiana due to political uprisings in Saint-Domingue. Sacagawea was indispensable to the success of Lewis and Clark, who might not have survived without her unique communicative capabilities in several Native American languages. Appreciation for America's multicultural past could be enriched by linking multi-perspective narratives to digital reproductions of historic maps, letters, journals, treatises, etc. written in English and other languages. Unfortunately, many historic documents remain inaccessible. This study first considers incorporation of authentic digital resources into educational materials and then explores tensions between “fair use” and institutions' claims of copyright protection over reproductions of public domain works housed in their collections.

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