Press/Journalists
Press Release
September 26, 2002
New Educational Web Site Fosters Dialogue About Democracy

College Park, MD — An exciting new web site created by the National Archives and National History Day, Inc. www.ourdocuments.gov transports students and educators back in time to 100 critical moments in our nation's history. See the original speeches, international treaties, Supreme Court cases, patent designs and Constitutional amendments that changed the course of history. Read transcriptions and historical interpretations of these documents.

www.ourdocuments.gov is part of a history and civics initiative announced by President George W. Bush in a White House Rose Garden ceremony on September 17, entitled Our Documents: A National Initiative on American History, Civics and Service.

The web site will introduce students to a national history contest where they have a chance to win awards and scholarships. Teachers can use web site lesson plans to help meet education standards and create their own lesson plan for a chance to win a national competition. Information on local teacher workshops and curriculum materials also will be featured on the site. The recent U.S. History National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report showed that students exposed to primary sources in the classroom perform better on history tests. This web site will provide teachers with important primary sources that can be actively used in the classroom to improve curriculum.

Teachers can click on the web site "Toolbox" to find:

  • a comprehensive annotated timeline,
  • suggestions for applying the 100 milestone documents to this year's National History Day's theme of "Rights and Responsibilities in History,"
  • methods for using primary source documents in the classroom,
  • ideas for constructing National History Day Projects using primary source documents,
  • document-specific lesson plans.

Information on teachers' workshops and student and teacher competitions is also featured on this web site.

Each week, www.ourdocuments.gov will feature three new documents beginning with the Lee Resolution of June 7, 1776, a simple document resolving that the United Colonies "are, and of right, ought to be free and independent States. . ." and ending with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 100 milestone documents are among the thousands of public laws, Supreme Court decisions, inaugural speeches, treaties, constitutional amendments, etc. that have influenced, and in some cases changed, the course of US history. They have helped shape the national character; they reflect our diversity, our unity, and our commitment as a nation to continue our work towards forming "a more perfect union."

Archivist of the United States, John W. Carlin said: "This initiative, created by the National Archives and National History Day in collaboration with the Corporation for National and Community Service and the USA Freedom Corps, will promote public understanding of the importance of rights and responsibilities in our democratic society. I believe that this program will encourage every American to engage in a dialogue about what it means to be a citizen. To understand the foundations on which our nation is built is crucial to participating in our democracy in a substantive way."

Cathy Gorn, executive director of National History Day, Inc. said: "We hope this project will help all Americans, but especially young Americans, learn about citizenship and history in an exciting and meaningful way."

National History Day is not just one day, but a yearlong education organization that makes history come alive through educator professional development and active student learning. Effective educators like Chauncey Veatch, 2002 National Teacher of the Year, incorporate NHD into their curriculum and over 2 million people are annually engaged in NHD programs. The organization has received the National Endowment for the Humanities Charles Frankel Prize for public programming and is funded nationally by Cargill, The History Channel, and other corporations, foundations and individuals.

The National Archives and Records Administration, an independent federal agency, is the nation's record keeper. Founded in 1934, its mission is unique — to ensure for the citizen and the public servant, for the President and the Congress and the Courts, ready access to essential evidence. The National Archives meets a wide range of information needs, ensuring access to records on which the credibility of our government and the accuracy of our history depend. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries and on the Internet at www.archives.gov.

For more information about Our Documents, visit www.ourdocuments.gov or contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 301-837-1700.

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