Helen Keller Archive Lesson Plans


Archives are facilities that house physical collections, where collections of records, materials, and objects are organized and protected. Archival materials are used to write history. Through the internet, digital archives make those records more accessible to students, researchers, and the general public.

Archival collections can include letters, photographs, reports, manuscripts, audio, video, artwork, objects … really, almost anything under the sun.

The Society of American Archivists explains that records are kept because they have continuing value to the creating agency and to other potential users. They are the documentary evidence of past events. They are the facts we use to interpret and understand history.

Digital archival object

Digital archival objects may have been originally created on the internet or digitally, or are representations of materials that have been photographed, scanned, or otherwise converted to digital formats.

For example:

  • A JPEG (.jpg) image file of an oil painting
  • A TXT(.txt)  or PDF (.pdf) text file of an old typed letter
  • An MP3 (.mp3) audio file of a Rolling Stones song from a record album
  • An MP4 (.mp4) video file of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon

Digital library or archive

A website that allows access, search, and browse (or explore) capabilities to digital object collections that are permanently housed and preserved online.


Filters are tools used on a website (such as the digital Helen Keller Archive and shopping websites), that allow users to limit searches by topic, category, or other common organizing characteristics.


Materials are the things collected and stored in archives. Materials exist in many different formats: text, images, video, audio, objects, and more.

Physical archive

A permanent collection of valuable materials.

Primary source

A primary source is evidence of history. Whether it is an object, text, or recording, a primary source was created at the time a particular event occurred or was created by someone with firsthand knowledge of an event.


According to the Society of American Archivists, provenance refers to the individual, family, or organization that created or received items in a collection.

Provenance information is used as a way to organize archival collections.


The National Archives describes a Series as the most common unit of records, or materials held, in an archival collection. A series of records were accumulated and used together for a specific purpose, during a distinct period of time, and the records in a series are usually arranged in a particular order.

For example, the digital Helen Keller Archive is arranged by material formats:

Secondary source

A secondary source synthesizes or analyzes primary source material. Typically, researchers produce secondary sources after an historical event or era. They discuss or interpret evidence found in primary sources. Examples are books, articles, and documentaries.