Years ago, while browsing the clearance aisles at my local Barnes & Noble Store, I discovered the concept of Museum-in-a-Book. These are usually slip-cased books with pages packed with enclosures. The enclosures are reproductions of historical documents, primary sources, that relate to the text. You can see and hold excellent facsimiles of letters, telegrams, battle plans, postcards, etc. You see the handwriting, the tears, the smudges, sometimes the bloodstains. Some of them also include CDs or DVDs of additional material.
Of course, these books provide hours of entertainment and knowledge for history lovers, but I also use them in my history classroom, after they are laminated for handling. They may end up as part of a bulletin board or display or a part of a teaching trunk that use for hands on investigations or work stations that the students rotate through. They may be used with the whole class as a bellringer or introduction to a topic, in order to generate discussion and thought. Sometimes, each student is assigned a different document to investigate. The students have to use critical thinking skills and research to figure out what the document is exactly and how it is significant. Or maybe they are required to create a reply or rebuttal to their assigned document. There are numerous uses, and activity with primary documents, especially documents that are so accurately reproduced deepens a student’s knowledge, understanding, critical thinking, and creativity.
Unfortunately, there is not a single source for these books; they are in fact published by numerous publishers. I’ve seen them most often in clearance sections of book stores like Barnes & Noble, discount book stores that sell remainders, and museum gift shops. They might also be found in used book stores and online at ebay.com . Usually, I just stumble on them. I’ll list the ones I own , and you might try locating them by title or checking with their publisher’s website. If you know of great titles or publishers, share in the comments below.
From Fields of Fire and Glory: Letters of the Civil War. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2002. Print.
Rendell, Kenneth W. World War II: Saving the Reality: A Collector's Vault, with Illustrations and Artifacts from the Museum of World War II. Atlanta, GA: Whitman Pub., 2009. Print.
Souter, Gerry, Janet Souter, and D. M. Giangreco. The Vietnam War Experience. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008. Print.
Wertz, Jay. The Civil War Experience, 1861-1865. New York: Presidio/Ballantine, 2005. Print.
Wertz, Jay. The Native American Experience. Guilford, CT: Lyons/Globe Pequot, 2009. Print.