History 300 is an introductory class for students majoring in history. The main objective of the course is to prepare students to write a major research paper in senior-level history courses. In this class you will concentrate on the 1930s in Soviet Russia through three different sources: two of them being secondary sources and one a primary source. Hence, you will learn about a relatively short, yet historically very significant time period from three different perspectives, which will provide you insight into how differently individuals can think and write about the past. The class provides insight into the craft of a historian and the role of subjectivity in historical interpretations.
Typically, historical research can be separated into two categories: Primary and Secondary. It is important to understand the differences between the two types of resources.
A Primary Source is Defined As: Materials produced by people in the period and culture under consideration. These sources provide the evidence on which art historians rely in order to interpret the document and its significance in the time and place of its creation. Some primary sources are written documents, such as letters; speeches; biographies; official decrees, religious texts, legal records, economic and trade records. In addition, historians often examine primary sources such as archaeological remains.
A Secondary Source is Defined As: A resource that discusses a previously created artwork or monument or prior period/event from an academic or research or layperson perspective. The key here is that the resource is from some time after the event. An example of this would be a book about Augustus or an article in a journal publication discussing the significance of Stalin. A book will NOT typically be a primary source unless it is a compilation of letters or diary entries or documents.
Primary vs. Secondary Source: Often times determining whether something is primary or secondary may depend on the question that is being asked. For instance, if a researcher is researching the issues around Soviet ideology and reads a book on that topic published in the 1960's, that book may be determined to be secondary but if the question is then about later European understanding of the Soviet Era, then that same book can then become primary.
1. Read the document carefully. You may be examining an artwork or a textual document composed by an historical author.
2. Think about the following questions. Some of these questions apply better to some documents than others. Some questions you may not be able to answer because of incomplete information, but you may be able to speculate based on your historical knowledge. Choose the questions (it could be several) that you think can best be used to analyze and reveal the meanings of your primary source. In your notes compose brief responses to these questions.
3. Now step back and make a more overall assessment that includes the basics of the document (including its style and tone), its strengths and weaknesses, the historical questions it might speak to, and some conclusions about the significance of the document?
Be a detective; consider thisdocument a “clue.” Read between the lines. This is not meant to be a summary or simple description of the document. Try to say something meaningful about the document’s significance – how it adds to our understanding of a particular episode of history.
Avoid presentism. You should not focus on making comparisons/contrasts to the present day. Your job is not to decide whether an document is good or bad, or whether the commissioner or author was right or wrong; rather, you should be seeking to understand the document’s form, function, and impact.
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Smarthistory.org: a trusted online resource on art history, with articles and videos created by art history scholars on different cultures and periods (some have more content than others). References for your own further reading and research are always provided.
British Museum Collection Online: the online portal to artifacts in the collection of the British Museum. Elsewhere at the BM’s website, you can find different information on many cultures.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art:: the online portal to artifacts in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the best collections of ancient art in the world. Elsewhere at the Met’s website, you can find different information on many cultures.
Digitales Forum Romanum: Based at Humboldt University in Germany, this project recreates different periods of the Roman Forum using 3D models. Information, resources, images, and videos of the Forum in the Republican, Augustan, and different Imperial periods can be viewed. Please select English on the right hand side of the screen!
Virtual Rome: Based at the University of Reading in the UK, this site provides some digital models of ancient Rome that can be explored using smartphone QR codes.
Getty Center: This page, part of the Getty Research Institute, provides research resources on ancient Greek and Roman art, including searches of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collections (getty.edu), open access books, and other information.
Art Institute of Chicago: artic.edu One of the leading museums in the United States, the Art Institute of Chicago recently published a digital scholarly catalogue of their Roman art collection that can be accessed here: https://www.artic.edu/digital-publications/roman-art-at-the-art-institute-of-chicago
Archaeological Park of Pompeii: The official site of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii run by the Italian Ministry of Culture, this website has guides to the different sites, houses, and districts of Pompeii, and information on ongoing excavations. There is a lot of information here about the history of the site and current work.
Capitoline Museums: The Capitoline Museums house many collections of Roman art and history. Search their collections, and read about ongoing excavations and other information.
The Louvre Museum curatorial departments: The curatorial departments have selected around 200 major artworks per department for browsing, but you can search the collections for a specific artwork by title, keyword, and/or accession number.