The LOC has a vast amount of material online, but let me give you an example of just one small slice of it. Let’s take photographs from the Civil War. When I look at this collection I see powerful, amazing images of people on both sides of the war. While I’m interested in photos of the famous people like Lincoln, Lee and Grant, I’m even more fascinated by images of average soldiers who are often unidentified. When I look at their faces, I wonder what they experienced and if they survived the war.
Photos of soldiers are not the only type of images in their collection; many are of women and children. This touching image of a young girl in a dark mourning dress holding a photo of her father, says a lot-silently.
This morning I found an unexpected collection at the LOC: eyewitness drawings of Civil War scenes. There are lots of battle scenes and landscapes, but the one that drew my eye was this sketch of a soldier. It makes me wonder who this man was and why the artist sketched his image. Was he a friend or brother? Was he a hero or a deserter?
Images like these can teach students a lot about history. And they can inspire both fiction and nonfiction writers.
Carla Killough McClafferty