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[Detail] Pinus scopulorum Reproduction, Jemez Springs, New Mexico

The thinking skills essential to understanding history can be sharpened by analyzing the images from American Environmental Photographs, 1891-1936 in a variety of ways. Information left out of photographs and their captions provide the starting point for understanding chronological relationships and for conducting question-driven research. The Special Presentation section "Ecology and the Preservation of the Indiana Dunes" affords an opportunity to understand the destruction and preservation of the landscape. Other photographs can be used to practice analyzing and interpreting both images and real-life issues.

Chronological Thinking

The Shore of Lake Manitou

The Shore of Lake Manitou, North Manitou Island, Michigan, 1898.

Using images from the collection, one can practice identifying a primary source's date of origin, understanding the chronological relation of events, and organizing information chronologically. The Special Presentation "Ecology and the American Environment" and the collection's "Chronology of Field Trip Courses" are starting points from which one may search the collection to create illustrated timelines. For example, noting the sites of class field trips in the chronology, search on the included place names or the years of the field trips to retrieve images that were created on those trips.

If the bibliographic information provided does not indicate the year the photograph was created, how does one determine where the image fits within the chronology?

Office at the Wind River Experiment Station

Wind River Experiment Station, Stabler, Washington, August, 1920.

  • Are there people in the image wearing clothing of a certain time period? Are they doing things specific to an era?
  • Are there technology or materials in the image that were only available after a certain point in history? For example, is there a car, a train, or certain tool?
  • If an exact year cannot be determined through study of the image, can one at least determine whether it was taken before or after another image?

Alternatively, one can try to identify images within the collection that illustrate an ecological process taking place over time. Find references to ecological processes in the Special Presentation. Write an explanation of how each photograph relates to the process.