American Centuries displays items from the collection of the Memorial Hall Museum and Library in Deerfield, Massachusetts. This museum specializes in 17th-20th century artifacts of the East Coast, and the exhibits cover multiple aspects of historical New England. The website makes its primary appeal to teachers and young students.
A section of the site called "In the Classroom" offers numerous lesson plans for elementary and middle-school teachers, some written by museum employees and some by schoolteachers themselves, using materials in the online exhibits. Searches for lessons can include filters for grade level, historical era, and even subjects integrated into the lesson. For example, one of the lessons found when filtered to integrate World History is "Burial Customs: 19th Century Deerfield and Ancient Egypt". This lesson plan asks students learning about ancient Egyptian culture to compare how preservation techniques and beliefs about the afterlife compare to nineteenth century Massachusetts given a selection of documents and artifacts. Students can compare and discuss cultures across eras and regions.
Even more directly helpful for the young (or old, but impatient) site visitor is the "Highlights" page, which offers artifacts in neatly arranged categories and sub-categories. For example, in the "Children" category one can find images and information in the sub-categories of children's toys, clothing, furniture, schoolbooks, and even children's own handiwork. The individual pages for each artifact all include an icon called "Look closer"; once clicked, this icon opens a second window with a sophisticated zoom feature, offering several different degrees of close-up views for the artifact. This smart device allows site-visitors an even more detailed inspection of the artifacts than they could glean in an actual museum, where exhibits are separated from visitors by glass and several feet of space. Many of these artifacts are so exceptionally well-preserved that the zoom feature is especially pleasurable; we can revel in the joy of inspecting the hand-painted decoration on an 1835 baby carriage, or the careful stitching on a hand-made cloth doll from 1887.
With its easy navigability, superb detail in images and texts, and rich resources for students and teachers, this site is one of the best internet collections available for a range of topics.
This review was originally written for the Children and Youth in History project. It was revised for World History Commons by Daniel Howlett, George Mason University.