Programming with Library of Congress Digital Collections : STEM
This guide is designed to help all types of libraries explore primary sources available from the Library of Congress online collection, and to connect with their communities through programming and educational opportunities.
The Library of Congress has primary sources about STEM topics that can be used in library programming, classes, and displays.
While primary sources are often associated with history and social studies, the Library of Congress houses several collections of primary sources that can be used to promote and explore Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). STEM primary sources can help patrons answer questions, and they can provide context for the understanding of themes and concepts in these subject areas. Many of the STEM collections contain information and designs about inventors and their inventions. These not only show how objects came to be and how they work work, but they can also act as inspiration for budding creators.
The Tissandier Collection includes primary sources about early aeronautics from 1773-1910. The Collection includes 975 items, over 400 of which are digitized. The Collection includes diagrams, portraits of famous balloonists, ticket stubs and posters from hot air balloon events, and drawings/illustrations of hot air balloon flights.
Fearful balloon adventure-- saved by a Grimsby fishing smack
image: Police News: Fearful Balloon Adventure, (1874). Front page of British illustrated newspaper shows two stories including a man and woman (possibly balloonist Jules Duruof and his wife) clinging to a balloon basket in a stormy sea with a rescue boat approaching.
Sixteen vignettes from the lives of French balloonists, Albert and Gaston Tissandier] / Adrien Marie à Gaston Tissandier souvenir de notre ascension du 3 aôut 1887
*As an alternative activity, libraries can host an Egg Drop Challenge through which patrons design a landing craft that will protect a raw egg from cracking when it is dropped from a height. (This is fun and educational for all ages!) For more information about the Egg Drop Challenge and to learn how to host your own program around it, visit Chicago's Museum of Science + Industry.
Create a Tribute in the Form of a Concrete Poem:
The Tissandier Collection includes a primary source tribute handwritten in the shape of a balloon. The text pays tribute to Henri Giffard's balloon that was exhibited during the Paris World Exposition in 1878.
This primary source tribute is similar to a concrete poem. A concrete poem is written in the shape of the subject of the poem. (For example, a poem about laundry might be written in the shape of a washing machine or a poem about a gecko might be written in the shape of a lizard).
Use library resources to find and learn about a famous inventor. Then, write a concrete poem honoring that inventor.
For example, if you learned about inventor Thomas Edison, you could then write a concrete poem in the shape of a light bulb.
Host an "Inventor Poetry Slam" during which patrons share their concrete poems.
Tells the true story of Joseph Montgolfier and his invention of the hot-air balloon in France in 1782. (K-Grade 4)
In addition to designs and drawings, the Tissandier Collection also includes portraits of people who were famous in the field of early aeronautics. Choose one of these primary sources, and learn more about the historical figure. Most of the documents in the Tissandier Collection are in French or about events that occurred in France, but use Chronicling America to find references to them and their inventions.
Here is a portrait of Gaston and Albert Tissandier. Both were balloonists, and the Library of Congress collection is named after them.
The Wilbur and Orville Wright Collection includes primary sources documenting the lives of the Wright Brothers. The collection includes diaries and notebooks, letters, drawings, other documents, and photographic negatives dating from 1900 to 1940.
image: First flight, 120 feet in 12 seconds, 10:35 a.m.; Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, (1903) by Wilbur Wright, Orville Wright, and John T. Daniels. (Photograph shows the first powered, controlled, sustained flight. Orville Wright at the controls of the machine, lying prone on the lower wing with hips in the cradle which operated the wing-warping mechanism. Wilbur Wright running alongside to balance the machine, has just released his hold on the forward upright of the right wing. The starting rail, the wing-rest, a coil box, and other items needed for flight preparation are visible behind the machine. [Orville Wright preset the camera and had John T. Daniels squeeze the rubber bulb, tripping the shutter.])
Think about how amazing these early aeronautics would have been for someone who had never seen a person fly in a balloon or an airplane before....
Before these inventions, that was something that only birds could do!
The Library of Congress hosts Everyday Mysteries: Fun Science Facts, a collection which answers some of "life's most interesting questions" through the use of primary sources, introducing users to the Library's vast collections of science and technology primary sources. All of the Everyday Mysteries questions were asked by researchers and answered by the Library's Science Reference Services.
Did you ever wonder if it is true that no two snowflakes are alike?
Or, why do pigeons bob their heads when they walk?
Librarians, patrons, and students can submit their own questions through the LOC's online form.
The Library of Congress' Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers Collection is massive and includes over 145,000 items of general correspondence, scientific notebooks, blueprints, articles, speeches, and miscellaneous writings including poems written by and for Bell.
Sometimes looking at primary sources can be like looking for "6 degrees of separation." For example, did you know that Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell were friends? The collection includes their correspondence as well as the poem "Autumn" that was written by Helen Keller when she was only 13 years old. It is dedicated, in her own handwriting "For Dr. Bell, with dearest love from the author."
Similar to browsing the shelves of a physical library, looking through primary sources can lead the patron, student, or researcher down various, delightful, serendipitous rabbit holes.
Statement on Potentially Harmful Content and Fair Use
Statement on Potentially Harmful Content
Some of the materials presented in this guide may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions. In addition, some of the materials may relate to violent or graphic events and are preserved by the Library of Congress and presented here for their historical significance.
Digitized primary sources in the Library's collection each include a "Rights and Access" or "Rights Advisory" statement within the catalog information. These can help users determine whether the item is in the public domain or whether there are copyright restrictions. For more information about the Library of Congress' policy on Copyrights and Primary Sources visit the website.