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Monday Morning Ready08.17.2018
Jumpstart Your Week!

The photograph’s caption says it all: “Nice Feather Dusters.” Three of these eponymous cleaning tools appear clasped in the right hand of a late 19th-century peddler. His untidy pseudo-necktie undermines his straight-laced expression. Another is poking awkwardly out of a bag by his left side. However, they do not look like a feather duster. Instead, they look like the back end of a richly plumed bird.... < read more >
Grade 3-4

Think about your favorite photo. Who is in it? Why is it special to you?

Grade 5-6

What do you think people could or should learn from this new photographic exhibition?

Grade 7-8

Imagine that the photographic exhibition featured in the article only included snapshots taken in the past year. What would those snapshots reveal about culture and society today?

Grade 9-10

Why is it so important to consider historic context when analyzing photos? What other contexts do you think people should consider to accurately interpret what they see?

Write a Short Story About a Historic Photo


  1. Inform students that photographs are a type of art. They make us feel. They make us think. And the same photo can communicate different messages based on the viewer's interpretation.
  2. Point out that in the article, curator Anne Wilkes Tucker said she initially selected images for this exhibition based on her gut reaction. Talk about what that means. Then discuss how she used artistic, technical and historic aspects of the photos-and the cameras used to take them-to make her final picks.
  3. Invite students to visit the Annenberg Space for Photography's site featuring the Not an Ostrich and Other Images from America's Library exhibition. Encourage them to examine the featured photos and those included in the brief video. Instruct students to select one photo.
  4. Give students time to observe and analyze their photo. Have them take notes about what they feel, think and see from artistic, technical and historic perspectives. Invite students to write a short story based on the photo and their interpretation of it.


Invite students to share their stories with the class. Challenge them to identify specific parts of the photo that led them to interpret it and write about it in a particular way.


Grades 3-4:
After viewing all of the photos on the exhibition site, have the class pick one image. Analyze the photo as a class. Then have students work with a partner to write a short story about the photo.
Grades 5-6:
After viewing all of the photos on the exhibition site, divide the class into pairs. Encourage partners to pick one photo. Instruct them to take notes describing what they felt, thought and saw when observing the photo. Then have them analyze their notes. Give partners time to write a short story about the photo.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Have partners view the exhibition site and select one photo. Instruct them make a detailed record of what they felt, thought and saw when observing the photo. Encourage them to also describe notable artistic, technical and historic details they see. Then have each partner analyze the notes and write a short story expressing his or her own interpretation of the photo.
Grades 9-10:
After viewing the exhibition site, instruct each student to pick a photo. Give students time to observe and analyze the photo from artistic, technical and historic perspectives. Instruct students to select one of those perspectives and feature it prominently as they write a short story about the photo.
Every Picture Has a Story
This lesson plan from the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access focuses on important steps in the development of photography in the nineteenth century. Students make observations and inferences about historical photos. Then, they use their deductive skills to place photographs in a historical context.

Then, Now and Tomorrow
In this activity from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, high school students will use photographs to research the history of New York’s Lower East Side and to predict the future of the neighborhood.

The History of Color Photography
Invite students to watch this Smithsonian magazine video to learn about events leading up to the development of the first commercially viable color photographic process.

Looking at Earth
This National Air and Space Museum online exhibition demonstrates how views of our planet from above have helped us better understand it. The site provides examples of satellite imagery and aerial photography used for urban planning and more.

Edge of Enchantment
This exhibit from the National Museum of the American Indian presents the pictures and stories of the Huatulco and Huamelula people of Mexico as they talk about their families, the beliefs and practices that sustain their sense of who they are, the ceremonial landscapes to which they remain rooted and the development and migration now changing their world.

Photographing History: Fred J. Maroon and the Nixon Years, 1970-1974
This online exhibit form the National Museum of American History features the photographs of photojournalist Fred Maroon, who was granted unusual access to the Nixon White House to document the 1970 reelection campaign as well as major events of the Watergate controversy.

Frontier Photographer: Edward Curtis
Invite students to view this online exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries to examine the photos of frontier photographer Edward Curtis. His work was an attempt to capture images of American Indians as they lived before contact with Anglo cultures. The site includes biographical details, images and accompanying primary document quotes.

The Long History of 3D Photography
Invite students to watch this Smithsonian magazine video to learn about the multi-layered path of 3D imagery, from its invention in 1841 to the blockbuster movies they see today.