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Integration of Primary Resource Materials into Elementary School Curricula

Beth Sandore, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Patricia Miller, Illinois Heritage Association, USA
Nuala Bennett, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Amanda Grunden, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Session: Achieving Educational Objectives

The Digital Cultural Heritage Community project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is an eighteen-month project, the primary focus of which is the digitization of materials from local area museums, archives and libraries for early and late elementary grades social science curricula. Using curriculum units delivered by the participant teachers and the Illinois Social Science Learning Standards for direction, examples of the types of primary source materials that have already been digitized or would need to be digitized for inclusion in a digital repository are identified by the museum curators and librarians. Content selection is determined through an on-going review process, with the goal of enabling the teachers to integrate digital cultural heritage materials into the curricula.

The participants are simultaneously determining the steps necessary to make the content available to teachers and students, and to create the digital repository that will be accessible through the project Web site. In order to create an integrated system usable by each participant institution, several issues are of concern, particularly metadata. Firstly, the metadata must be complex enough to easily integrate the different forms of metadata currently used by each participant museum or library. It must, at the same time, be simple enough to be easily understood by the participant elementary school teachers and their students. Each museum and library must be willing and able to merge its content and metadata with multiple other sources. Issues currently being considered include OCLC's Cooperative Online Resource Catalog (CORC), Dublin Core and EAD, as well as the creation of dynamically delivered HTML and Microsoft Active Server Pages (MS-ASP) using MS-Access or AltaMira Press's PastPerfect as a database source. Other important issues for the museums and libraries include the development of a collaborative agreement to include a set of terms and conditions for digital access to collections, the right to distribute materials, permissions to host materials, and a "Conditions of Use" statement for users accessing the collections.

At this point in the project, our interactions have yielded several significant discoveries that may be of interest to other similar endeavors. Firstly, each school district had created its own interpretation of the Illinois Learning Standards, necessitating additional review of local standards to insure that the project addressed goals and objectives that were pertinent on a local as well as a state level. Secondly, as teachers made their curriculum units available, it became clear that there might not always be a good fit between curriculum needs and the local area museum and library collections. In order to get over this stumbling block, the curators and librarians must be more innovative when choosing items to digitize. In turn, teachers must be willing and able to make use of materials with their students in more imaginative ways. Finally, we must develop a set of guidelines and standards for the museums and libraries to enable the creation of a consistent database, easily mapping between different controlled vocabularies and organizational data.