Examine collections of the Museum's key resources on major themes in American history and social studies teaching.  Additional resources can be found in the main search areas of the website.


Examine immigration history from the 19th through the mid-20th century with an emphasis on the journeys of immigrants from Asia and Latin America to the American west and southwest.

1880s Agricultural Nation Classroom Activity Guide

Grade Range: 5-12
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities, Worksheets, Primary Source
Date Posted: 1/22/2011

In this set of classroom activities developed for the exhibition America on the Move, students will use visual, analytical, and interpretive skills to examine primary sources including historical maps to answer questions about farming, transportation, immigration, and racism in the 1880s, and will answer questions about the history and impact of railroads on their own communities. The activities provide opportunities for historical analysis, interpretation, evaluation, analyzing cause/effect relationships, understanding multiple points of view, performing original research, debating and persuasive writing and help students develop and strengthen map-reading skills and the ability to identify issues and problems in the past and connect the past to the present.

Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution: Service

Grade Range: 4-12
Resource Type(s): Primary Source, Reference Materials
Date Posted: 6/10/2008

Students will learn about the 25,000 Japanese Americans who served in U.S. military units during World War II. This section of A More Perfect Union, an online exhibition, uses artifacts from the Museum's collections, primary source documents, photographs and oral histories to tell the stories of the military service and sacrifice of these brave men as well as the irony that they were fighting to preserve the world's freedom while their families were imprisoned. Their combat record aided the post-war acceptance of Japanese Americans in American society and helped many people to recognize the injustice of wartime internment. Oral history transcripts are available in the subsections Soldier's Life, Military Intelligence and Translation, and Ironies of Service.

Chinese-American Shop Sign

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Primary Source, Artifacts
Date Posted: 5/6/2010

This sign was purchased by a North Beach second-hand shop from a proprietor in the neighboring Chinatown district of San Francisco. It is said to date from between 1890 and 1910. If that is so, the sign’s survival is quite miraculous: The 1906 earthquake in April of that year caused much damage throughout the city due to spreading wildfires. Residents of Chinatown grabbed what they could easily carry and evacuated the neighborhood ahead of the fires, taking up temporary residence in relief camps in San Francisco and Oakland. Relocating Chinatown permanently to Hunter’s Point or North Beach was discussed, but, with realization of the continued need for the tax base provided by foreign trade between the business community and Asia, Chinatown was ultimately rebuilt at its original location and continued to be not only a major center for the Chinese American community but a popular destination for tourists to the present day.

Translation of this shop sign would help to document a portion of the economic history of this neighborhood. It is likely that the language is Cantonese, the dialect used in Southern China, which was engaged in foreign trade long before military oppression and American labor recruitment in the mid-19th century brought immigrants to “Gun San” or the “Land of the Golden Mountain,” as the Cantonese referred to the West Coast of the United States. Not only did Chinese pan for gold in San Francisco. They labored excavating coal, mercury, and borax, building railway lines and tunnels, and working for fisheries and canneries throughout Far West. Economic depression in the late 1800s brought fear, discrimination, and violence to established Chinese communities. Successively restrictive acts of Congress prohibited further Chinese immigration beginning in 1882, with continuing restrictions of civil rights until the Immigration Law of 1965 eliminated such restrictions, bringing a new wave of migration to the United States from Asia.

With dwindling opportunities to earn enough money to return home, Chinese Americans turned to such service industries as laundries and restaurants and specialized increasingly in trade abroad. But this sign also may have advertised availability of herbal medicines, foodstuffs, cookwares, or furnishings desired by the local Chinese American community, which, while changing in population, has survived in San Francisco to the present day.

Exile: Cuba and the United States

Grade Range: 9-12
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities
Duration: 100 Minutes
Date Posted: 7/7/2008

In this lesson plan, students will research the events of the Cuban revolution and their effect on U.S.-Cuban relations and U.S. foreign policy by utilizing Celia Cruz's personal experience. They will then prepare a story about the revolution as if they were members of a television news team reporting on the events of the time.  This lesson is a resource included in the online exhibition entitled ¡Azúcar! The Life and Music of Celia Cruz.

The Short-Handled Hoe and Bracero History

Grade Range: 9-12
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities, Interactives & Media, Primary Source
Date Posted: 11/8/2009

This object-based learning activity revolves around the short-handled hoe, the bracero program, Cesar Chavez and the organizing of Latino farm workers in the American southwest after World War II. Students will learn about the role of Mexican guest workers in American agricultural history. After exploring the short-handled hoe and its importance as a source of historical information, students will visit the forum section of the site to hear NMAH curators and historians discuss the object and then use what they have learned to complete the Virtual Exhibit Activity.

This resource is included in The Object of History, a cooperative project between the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and George Mason University's Center for History and New Media.

Immigration, Migration, and How We Got There - Electronic Field Trip Part 1

Grade Range: 4-8
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media
Duration: 28 Minutes
Date Posted: 7/7/2008

This electronic field trip was designed to introduce grades 4–8 to the America on the Move exhibition on transportation in U.S. history. Curators and a student host visit the exhibition and examine the impact of immigration and migration and the influence of various forms of transportation on American history.


A Multicultural Portrait of Immigration

Author: Petra Press
Reading Level: Middle School
Genre: Non Fiction

An account of immigration from the 1600s to present.

Coming to America: The Story of Immigration

Author: Betsy Maestro
Reading Level: Late Elementary School
Genre: Non Fiction

An illustrated chronology of immigration over the course of American history.

New Kids in Town: Oral Histories of Immigrant Teens

Author: Janet Bode
Reading Level: Middle School, High School
Genre: Non Fiction

Accounts of teenagers' experiences immigrating to the United States.

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