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Research Guides

HSTAA 110: History of American Citizenship: Primary Sources: Images & Maps

collage of 1960s photos & maps

Photographs as Historical Evidence

Photographs, drawings and other images provide information you can't always get from a text source. Images can provide details of everyday life such as clothing or material culture. It is important to keep in mind that photographs are not an unbiased reflection of reality -- the photographer chooses what and how to depict a certain scene. When using images ask yourself, "why it was created, how it was used, how this subject that was depicted here, was understood."

Strengths

  • Photographs, drawings and other images provide information you can't always get from a text source. Images can provide details of everyday life such as clothing and material culture. 
  • Photographs of the same area taken at different times can show change over the years.

 

Keep in mind

  • Many photographs come with limited information about the photographer, location and date. You will need to analyze the photograph for clues. 
  • Photographs are not an unbiased reflection of reality -- the photographer chooses what and how to depict a certain scene. You need to ask your self what was the purpose of the photograph.
 

For more information on using photographs see: Making Sense of Documentary PhotographsAnalyzing PhotographsAnalyzing Material CulturePhoto Analysis WorksheetLearning to do Historical Research: Photographic Images.

 Maps as Historical Evidence

Strengths

  • Maps provide a spatial dimension and can reveal aspects of a city that may not be visible at first glance such as transport networks and environmental dimensions.
 

Keep in mind

  • Different kinds of maps provide different kinds of information -- a fire insurance map is different from a topographical map.  
  • It is important to keep in mind that maps are not a mirror of reality -- the creator of a map chooses what to include and how to depict a certain place within the cartographic conventions of the times. Maps are created for specific purposes.
 

For more information on using maps see: Making Sense of MapsMap Analysis Worksheet & Learning to do Historical Research: Maps