PERSPECTIVES ON EARLY AMERICAN HISTORY: Art as a Primary Source

INTRODUCTION

Do you see what I see?”

America’s story is one of triumph and tragedy and everything in between. The New Britain Museum of American Art’s collection of works from the 18th and 19th centuries document aspects of the colonial period and early American history. While each painting is viewed individually, each is located in a bigger picture. Over time, these focused works reveal a gradual nation-building process, from America’s earliest inspiration to the reality of the American Constitution.

With the power of art to promote inquiry and provoke critical thinking, the New Britain Museum of American Art invites teachers and students in Connecticut’s Grade 5 classrooms to explore works from this period in American history. Using art as primary sources of evidence, teachers and students investigate the earliest years of the American story from a visual perspective through an interdisciplinary, inquiry-oriented approach focused around compelling questions.

CONNECTING WITH THE CONNECTICUT SOCIAL STUDIES STANDARDS AND THE C-3 FRAMEWORK

This project references select C-3 fifth-grade social studies standards that are particularly appropriate in using artwork as a primary source.

Perspectives

D2.His.5.3-5. Explain connections among historical contexts and people’s perspectives at the time.

Historical Sources and Evidence

D2.His.10.3-5 Compare information provided by different historical sources about the past.

D2.His.13.3-5. Use information about a historical source, including the maker, date, place of origin, intended audience and purpose to judge the extent to which the source is useful for studying a particular topic.

HOW TO ENGAGE WITH HISTORY THROUGH ART

Based on the works in the NBMAA collection, many of which are on view in the Bentley and Martin Galleries, four themes have been developed which teachers can integrate into their curriculum from various entry points, depending on the teacher’s unit goals and lesson objectives.

Be sure to check out Tips for Success before you begin.

The Puritans in America

Learning from Early Portraits

Featured speaker:

Kate Haulman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, American University




Past and Present: Artists in Conversation

Featured speaker:

Daniel J. Broyld, Ph.D., Associate Professor, UMass Lowell



An Artist's Perspective: Seeing Native Americans

Featured speaker:

Josh Carter, Executive Director, Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This project has been made possible by a generous grant from the Warner Foundation. The Warner Foundation continues the legacy of Jonathan “Jack” Warner in utilizing American Art as an important vehicle for teaching American History. The mission of the Warner Foundation is to promote an understanding of American History and its relevance to controversial issues through art exhibitions and programs that promote meaningful dialogue and rekindle a spirit of tolerance and hope in our society.

 

Connect with the NBMAA In Person

The NBMAA Education Department offers docent-led tours for students, grades Pre-K —12. The tour “What is America?” features a ten-minute stop in each of six galleries for a guided discussion in which students discuss artwork across American history.

Many of the works in this project are on view in the Bentley and Martin Galleries. If you would like to bring your students to see the works in person for a self-guided experience, or for a “What is America” tour, please contact the NBMAA Education Department or call (860) 229-025, ext. 224. A school trip may be eligible for grant funding.