Teaching with Primary Sources

Teaching with Primary Sources Program at Mars Hill University

Funded by a grant from the Library of Congress, the Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program at Mars Hill University provides high quality professional development to teachers, school librarians and other educational specialists throughout Western North Carolina.  The TPS-Mars Hill program helps teachers use the Library’s vast collection of digitized primary sources to enrich their classroom instruction. We are committed to providing North Carolina educators free professional development with primary sources as its central focus.  Pre-service teachers at MHU are introduced to the Library’s materials a number of times during their undergraduate course work.


Primary sources are actual records that have survived from the past, like letters, photographs, articles of clothing and music. They are different from secondary sources, which are accounts of events written sometime after they happened.

Primary sources are all around us – in our homes, communities, libraries and museums. The primary sources found at the Library of Congress include documents and books, correspondence, newspapers, advertisements, maps, pamphlets, speeches, public records and music, as well as visual arts items like photographs, paintings, cartoons and films. Millions of these are digitized and accessible online.

Learn more about the the Library’s TPS Program and other resources available to teachers at www.loc.gov/teachers.


Primary sources make your classroom come alive by providing an unfiltered record of artistic, social, scientific and political thought and achievement, produced by people who lived during that period.  Students are engaged when they examine and analyze primary sources. Use of primary sources in instruction guides students toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills. Studying primary sources helps students form reasoned conclusions, base their conclusions on evidence, and connect documents to their larger context of meaning. In analyzing primary sources, students move from concrete observations and facts to making inferences about the materials.  Primary source analysis is an integral part of the Common Core State Standards and the NC Essential Standards thoughout the K-12 curriculum.


In addition to our exciting Summer Institutes and workshops held on campus, the TPS-Mars Hill staff can bring a single workshop or series to your school or school district.  Contact Bridget Morton at bmorton@mhu.edu to schedule free professional development at your school.