UNT's Portal to Texas History, which provides digital access to everything from a copy of the 1850 Texas Constitution and 19th-century decisions by the Texas Supreme Court to more than 31,000 historical and aerial photos of the state, was chosen as one of the best online resources for education in the humanities by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The NEH created a link to the portal from its EDSITEment web site, which is a resource for teachers, students and parents who are searching for high-quality material in literature and language arts, foreign languages, art and culture and history and social studies. All web sites linked to EDSITEment have been reviewed for content, design, and educational impact in the classroom, and have been judged by humanities specialists to be of high intellectual quality. The Portal to Texas History was one of about 60 sites chosen for EDSITEment, from about 200 nominated sites.
Created and managed by the UNT Libraries' Digital Projects Unit, the portal offers more than 250,000 pages of material from archives, historical societies, small and large libraries, museums and private collections from all areas of Texas. The portal emphasizes primary source historical materials, including diaries, personal accounts of events and daily life, illustrations and photos, original documents and maps. Browsers of the portal may use these materials to learn history from the perspectives of those who lived it.
The portal also includes Services for Educators section, which provides history lessons for elementary and middle school students that are compliant with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards, as well as teacher resources and services and downloadable Texas History Trading Cards.
The portal will soon include 100,000 pages of newspapers published in Texas between 1880 and 1910. In 2007, UNT became one of eight universities in the nation - and the only one from Texas - to receive a two-year grant from NEH to digitize Texas newspapers for the National Digital Newspaper Program, "Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers." In addition to being placed in the portal, the Texas newspaper pages will be included on the Library of Congress web site as part of a national digital resource of historically significant newspapers created by the NDNP.
Dreanna Belden, coordinator of grants and development for the UNT Libraries, says the Portal to Texas History receives more than 130,000 unique visitors each month, resulting in about 1.5 million page views per month. More than half of the users - 51 percent - live in states outside Texas, with 28 percent living in Texas and 21 percent living outside of the United States, she says.
Educators, Belden says, use the portal's primary sources in their classrooms, and also use the lesson plans in the Services for Educators section. She hopes that the portal's recognition from NEH will lead to more people using its free educational resources.
"We are already making a global and national impact, but feel that having the NEH link to our site will make more people aware of the fantastic resources on the portal. People from all over love Texas history, and this really becomes apparent when you look at who is using the portal," she says.
Jennifer Witherspoon, a librarian with the Azle Independent School District, called the portal a great resource.
"My Texas history teachers love it. I use the Texas History notebook for great lessons in the library, and my students learn so much more, besides just reading the textbook," she says.
UNT News Service press release
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