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Interactive Exercises—Analyzing Artifacts

Developed as part of the America’s History in the Making program, this interactive exercise introduces students to the process of analyzing and contextualizing historical artifacts using two different kinds of objects. Following simple, step-by-step exercises, users are asked a series of “W” questions (who, what, when, why) that require them to first closely examine the features of a Native American mask and/or read short passages from related primary sources in order to determine its creator, context, audience, and purpose. Based on these criteria, the exercise ends with asking students to choose the most accurate summary of the historical significance of the mask. Users can then practice this process of analysis with another historical object: a clock.

These two exercises clearly demonstrate that the historical significance of an artifact is accessed through observation in conjunction with related primary sources.