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Primary Sources & Lesson Plans
Teacher Notes for Personal Artifacts


Many different types of objects and documents fall into this category, from keepsakes to personal records to household items. Artifacts can reveal a great deal about an individual, about daily life, and about the broader society. In looking at them, students of history learn to link the personal with the general, to understand how the history of a person may be the history of a people. The very existence and survival of an artifact is significant. Individuals tend to preserve that which has value to them, so we must think about why a particular item was saved when many others were discarded.

For women, many personal artifacts have a sentimental attachment, although other items were saved for practical reasons. Emotion is not a frivolous aspect of history. What people felt is as important as what happened to them or what they believed. Attitudes and values, while quite personal, are formed against the backdrop of a broader context. As women’s environments have changed, so, too, did the items they sought to preserve.


  • Identify important details
  • Generalize from specific to global


1. Discuss with your students the nature and the value of personal artifacts as an historical source.

2. Have students bring in a personal artifact.

3. Have students do Section 1 of the Student Activity Sheet with a partner.

4. Have partners share each other’s artifacts with the class.

5. Show students a personal artifact from the Jewish Women’s Archive collection.

6. Have students complete Section 2 of the Student Activity Sheet and discuss their observations.

7. Provide students with background information for this artifact and have them complete Section 3 of the Student Activity Sheet.

8. For more specific questions, look at Discuss This Document in the individual documents.

9. Discuss students’ responses.

10. If time permits, have students do the follow-up activities in Section 4 of the Student Activity Sheet.

Document Study Sheets

Certificate of indenture, 1837

Junior High School Report Card, 1930

Entrance exam, Smith College, 1897

Program, Federal Theater Project, 1937

Israeli Five Lira Note, 1976

Trading Card, Famous Scientists, c. 1990


How to Cite This Page
Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Personal Artifacts - Teacher Notes for Personal Artifacts." <>.