Back in 1999, our idea was simple: use the web to link students and professional scholars of history around local historical topics. We brought our students to archives, libraries and museums to collect and link primary source records around selected topics, because we knew that history comes alive through hands-on investigation. We were amazed at what students were willing to attempt, and what they were able to accomplish, with only the encouragement of transportation and a slice of pizza. There is an innate love of history among students that motivates them even in the face of, or in spite of, the pressure to succeed with a good grade.
Since then our site has grown as we have worked with a variety of historical societies, school districts, and colleges. Primaryresearch.org is meant to be a free resource, free to access, free to learn from, and free to share and participate in. The strength of what we offer is directly related to engagement. History is often a puzzle to be assembled from pieces spread across our towns, our homes and memories, and our public archives. At it’s highest level, the pieces form pictures that enlighten us. We seek to immortalize the lives of everyday individuals, and in doing so, better understand where we’ve come from and where we’re going.
We are the web presence of a number of projects involving secondary school students and local history. Central to all of these projects is collaboration among research institutions such as historical societies, libraries, archives, and museums. We are based in Beverly, Massachusetts, which serves as a starting point for students learning the process of local history research.
Primaryresearch.org went online in 1999, then funded by a Documentary Heritage Grant from the Massachusetts Historical Records Advisory Board. Originally the website for Project Apprentice to History (PATH), it has grown to include projects such as Primary Research Through the History of Beverly (taught by W. Dean Eastman at Beverly High School), the Nathan Dane Collaborative (an electronic exhibit of documents and research related to Nathan Dane), African Americans in Antebellum Boston , Puritan Gravestone Studies, and more.
The aim of this website is to serve the research community by providing free access to original source documents and databases, as well as to provide a vehicle for the publication of original primary research by high school students. Collections of local history documents such as the Beverly Educational Archives , and Historic Postcards of Beverly are presented on this website free of charge. Student research projects using these documents show a sampling of some of the remarkable results possible from asking thoughtful questions.
The projects featured on this site originate from ideas conceived by W. Dean Eastman, his Primary Research Through the History of Beverly class at Beverly High School in Beverly, Massachusetts, and the extracurricular Project Apprentice to History (PATH). This website is designed, edited and updated by Kevin McGrath.
We encourage you to explore this website and make full use of the material provided. You can use the menu at the top of the page to access most areas of the site. Our goal is to inspire creative thinking and open possibilities for historical research.