Course Info

History hidden in the everyday

Certain objects naturally seem imbued with historical significance. The original copy of the Declaration of Independence, the pistol John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, the first capsule to orbit the earth: everyone recognizes such objects as important because of their unique roles in big historical events. Across the country, people line up at museums to get a glimpse of these special objects, and others like them, precisely because they seem so rare and so unusual. We can learn, it seems, a great deal about our history by studying them.

Other objects — the everyday things that surround us in our lives, casually bought, used, sold, or discarded week in and week out — seem unremarkable, even dull, by comparison. At first glance, they seem to lack special historical significance precisely because they are so common and everyday.

But objects that may seem plain or unremarkable on the surface can teach us a great deal about the past — about how people lived as well as about their values, aspirations, and conflicts. The first American flag is obviously special, but we can learn as much, or more, about the way American colonists lived in this time by looking at the everyday cooking implements that filled the average colonial kitchen.

Such objects might be called “hidden” in plain sight. They are common items that are easy to overlook precisely because they are so common. This series of lessons is about those kinds of objects — things that we (and the people who used them at the time) might not think of as having special historical significance, but that have the potential to teach some surprising things about particular chapters of American history.

Recertification Course Information

Teachers who register and complete all requirements for this section of Hidden in Plain Sight will earn a certificate of completion for 45 recertification points. Please visit Recertification Course Syllabus for a detailed course overview and requirements. The cost for this course is $60.