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Primary Sources for K-12 Educators

This guide is for K-12 educators seeking digital primary sources to use in their classrooms.

Open Collections is UBC Library’s portal for digital content, housing over 200,000 digital objects including photographs,maps, videos, books, audio content, newspapers, letters and more.  

All materials are freely available to view and download, and all content is locally created and managed by UBC Library. Our collections highlight the early history of British Columbia, providing a rich and openly accessible resource to display rare, unique materials.

New projects are always underway, and materials are constantly being added to the portal.


Open Collections offers:

  • Ability to search the collection using different filters, including: keywords, date range, and material type
  • Full screen object viewer with a variety of enhanced features
  • Download, cite, share, embed and comment services for each item
  • Unique interactions with books, newspapers and photo albums
  • Responsive design accommodating any device or screen resolution
  • Embedded metadata in the HTML for improved search engine harvesting and findability


How To Use Open Collections for Your Teaching?

There are a number of ways you can use Open Collections in your classroom. The following are few examples:

  • Use historical photos and other resources for students to summarize the subject, audience, and/or purpose of the source in history.
  • ​Send students on a search through the digital archives to find sources to answer a historical question.
  • Gather a collection of sources for students to identify similarities and differences in perspectives, ideas, and "facts" over time.
  • Take advantage of teaching resources created by others to help with lesson plan development.


For specific examples of activities using Open Collections digital primary sources, go to Sample Activities.  

For information about developing historical inquiry-based activities, lessons, and unit plans using primary sources, go to Additional Resources.