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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Oh Freedom! Teaching African American Civil Rights Through American Art at the Smithsonian

People's Choice:
1 vote




Smithsonian American Art Museum and The National Museum of African American History and Culture


In-house: Jeff Gates




Oh Freedom! Detail of TimelineOh Freedom! Detail of TimelineAs school districts shift from print to digital curricula, many are combining curriculum materials to mix and match the best ones for their teachers and students. Flexibility can be a good thing, but it also puts the burden on the teacher to select high-quality materials, a task that can be difficult and time-consuming. With this in mind, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture got together to create a “one-stop shop” for civil rights teaching using objects from Smithsonian collections.  Oh Freedom! Teaching African American Civil Rights through American Art at the Smithsonian focuses on the African American civil rights struggle, the movement's impact on American history, and its vital connections to artistic and cultural.  Our goal is to inspire middle and high school educators to go beyond traditional sources of information on civil rights, to engage the Smithsonian's resources in new ways, and to share practical teaching strategies across the curriculum.

Oh Freedom! Artwork PageOh Freedom! Artwork PageOh Freedom! compiles and interprets more than three dozen featured artworks from American Art’s and NMAAHC’s collections that are accessed through an interactive timeline, “Explore History in Art” (see a detail image of the Timeline). This section of the site encourages users to “think outside the box” to broaden their definition of the Civil Rights movement beyond the 1950s and 1960s by framing these featured artworks from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day with artist biographies and secondary sources from the wider collections of the Smithsonian. These include historical artifacts, additional artworks, musical and vocal recordings, photographs and more from the Archives of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Museum of American History and the National Portrait Gallery (see the Artwork page). These additional sources, along with a glossary and other materials, help students and teachers contextualize the stories revealed by each artwork. 

Oh Freedom! Detail of the Lesson Plan OverviewOh Freedom! Lesson Plan OverviewAlthough the website was designed and produced in-house on a very limited budget, Oh Freedom! has several interactive features designed to encourage users to generate and share materials.  For example, users can find, create and share lesson plans featuring artwork from the site (see the Lesson Plan Overview page).  Users can view and download standards-based lesson plans that were prepared by a national committee of teachers, use a template to create and then share a new lesson plan, and start a conversation about how to best teach the lessons in their particular classrooms.  They can download any artwork or print any artwork page, click on all featured artworks for a larger view or use the Zoom It feature on selected artworks for detailed views. Users can also comment, tag, and make notes on any featured artwork page and collect these artworks to use in classroom lessons (see the Image Dashboard feature).

Oh Freedom! User Collection FeatureOh Freedom! Image Dashboard FeatureOh Freedom! is the first Smithsonian pan-institutional collaboration that focuses specifically on civil rights.  It was created by members of the education, curatorial and new media departments of both museums. A national Content Advisory Council helped guide the site's framework, artwork selection and the interpretation of art and history. A national Teacher Advisory Council consulted about the site's usability, provided feedback on activities and developed lesson plans.  Several groups of teachers from across the U.S. also provided valuable feedback during usability testing and beta testing throughout the project.


Oh Freedom! Detail of Artwork PageOh Freedom! Detail of Artwork Page

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