Being a humanities teacher at the core, I understand that there is little as fulfilling as watching kids genuinely dig into original manuscripts and source documents. There is something so rich about allowing them to authentically connect with the past. Not the Reader's Digest version of the past we endearingly call text books. No, the imperfectly perfect documentation and images of the past that can best be highlighted in the authentic, original documents and photographs.
However, from experience we know that many of our students tend to struggle with nonfiction reading, tend to shy away from the challenge of working through the language barriers created by the passing of time and the change of society, and far prefer the nicely summated Wikipedia version of history and culture (at least when we ask them to regurgitate that history and culture back to us for the purpose of a project or report).
All the while we are fully aware that these rich source documents and images are sitting in collections we know we could never afford to take our students to see (and wonder if the risk would be worth the reward if we could).
Leave it to Google to merge the world of modern day technology with the wealth of resources that demonstrate and define our rich cultural history.
Google's Cultural Institute is a media rich experience where viewers (turned historians) get to dig deeply into these source documents on focused topics. From high resolution images that can be zoomed and panned, to first-hand accounts and interviews, to original source documents, the Google Cultural Institute is a must-see resource for educators encouraging their students to explore and connect with culture and history.
While the Google Cultural Institute teams are still building this resource and are creating new exhibits, the diversity of exhibits that presently span the previous century are enough to keep a wide variety of interests engaged.