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Alexander Graham Bell's design sketch of the telephone, ca. 1876.

[Detail] Alexander Graham Bell's design sketch of the telephone

Historical Analysis and Interpretation

The collection offers students many opportunities to analyze documents to determine what it tells of the point of view and interests of its author. Have students browse the Family Papers and General Correspondence series and choose one person to study: Bell, his father, mother, wife or father-in-law. Students can then read the letters this person wrote to determine his or her point of view on various issues. By reading the letters in chronological order, students can note how the author's views changed and developed over time. What might have influenced these changes of perspective? Other people's opinions? Life experiences? What else?

In addition to the statements a person makes and the ideas he or she expresses, the language used can also be revealing. What kinds of words are being used in these documents? What do they suggest about the writer's background, interests, attitudes, and character?