Using Images to Teach History

Washington — At a conference here today, “Picturing the Nation,” the National Endowment for the Humanities and its British counterpart described useful ways of using art to teach national history.

The conference focused on elementary- and secondary-school students and teachers. But one presentation, by Wilfred M. McClay, a history professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was on a topic relevant to all levels of education: the advantages and obstacles of using art as a classroom tool.

Art can be used to enable inquiries beyond its immediate subjects, said Mr. McClay. Written narratives, he said, are capable of offering details of a specific, subjective experience. Art, however, is a more effective means of presenting a comprehensive perspective. “The written text can only hint at the panorama,” he said.

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