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The (Still) Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe
Like his life’s work, Edgar Allan Poe’s death remains shrouded in mystery. Read this Smithsonian magazine article to explore the top nine theories about his death.
The True Story of the Mary Celeste
On December 4, 1872, the unmanned Mary Celeste was found adrift in the Atlantic with its cargo fully intact. The mystery of this “ghost ship” remained unanswered for over 135 years. Invite Students to watch this Smithsonian Channel video and the subsequent videos “Why They Might Abandon Ship” and “What Was Left Behind?” to gather clues, debate ideas and come to conclusions of their own. If you wish, have students conduct research to learn more about what is widely regarded as the most famous mystery of the sea.
Historians Are Detectives
Use this lesson from the National Museum of American History to teach students the differences between primary and secondary sources as well as the value of primary sources in history. By using primary sources to answer a series of questions, students will see that, much like detectives, historians have to provide evidence to prove that their answers are correct.
Who Am I? A History Mystery
In this interactive game from the Smithsonian’s History Explorer, students select a mystery character from the Civil War and examine objects that hold the key to their identity.
Darkroom Detective
Historians use several types of evidence to learn about the past. One key source when investigating what it was like to live in a sod house is the photographs taken by a man named Solomon Butcher. In this activity from the Smithsonian Museum of American History, students examine some of Butcher’s photographs, analyze what they see and come to their own conclusions.
Mystery Skull Interactive
Not all great detectives are fictional. When scientists discover a new fossil skull, they compare it to skulls that have already been identified as particular human species. Invite students to become scientific detectives as they complete this National Museum of Natural History activity and help identify the mystery skull.
Playing Historical Detective: Great-Grandmother’s Dress and Other Clues to the Life and Times of Ann
In this 1981 issue of Art to Zoo, students become detectives, piecing together the life of a nineteenth century woman by examining primary source documents and artifacts.
Meet Me at Midnight
This online game magically takes players to the Smithsonian American Art Museum after hours. In the museum, players find that the artworks are mixed up—all because of the troublesome Root Monster! To get back home, players must solve mysteries—and help their new friends find their artworks.
Lost in the Coin Vault
This interactive game from the National Museum of American History is a fun way for students to learn about currency and explore American history. Players enhance their analytical skills as they decipher clues and closely examine objects from the National Numismatics Collection to solve mysteries and escape from the coin vault.
Spotlight: Biography
Try out the links on this Smithsonian site to learn more about the lives and accomplishments of exceptional Americans. The biographies include images and information from across the Smithsonian about men and women who have shaped our history and culture.